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Stochastic processes and ecological connectivity drive stream invertebrate community responses to short-term drought


Sarremejane, Romain et al. (2020), Stochastic processes and ecological connectivity drive stream invertebrate community responses to short-term drought, Dryad, Dataset,


1. Community responses to and recovery from disturbances depend on local (e.g. presence of refuges) and regional (connectivity to recolonization sources) factors. Droughts are becoming more frequent in boreal regions, and are likely to constitute a severe disturbance for boreal stream communities where organisms largely lack adaptations to such hydrological extremes. 2. We conducted an experiment in 24 seminatural stream flumes to assess the effects of local and regional factors on the responses of benthic invertebrate communities to a short-term drought. We manipulated flow (drought vs. constant-flow), spatial arrangement of leaf litter patches (aggregated vs. evenly distributed) and colonization from regional species pool (enhanced vs. ambient connectivity) to test the combined effects of disturbance, connectivity, and resource arrangement on the structural and functional responses of benthic invertebrate communities. 3. We found that a drought as short as one week reduced invertebrate richness and abundances, mainly through stochastic extinctions. Such changes in richness were not reflected in functional diversity. This suggests that communities were characterized by a high degree of functional redundancy, which allowed maintenance of functional diversity despite species losses. Feeding groups responded differently to drought, with organic matter decomposers responding more than scrapers and predators. 4. Three weeks was insufficient for a complete invertebrate community recovery from the drought. However, recovery was greater in channels subjected to enhanced connectivity, which increased taxonomic diversity and abundance of certain taxa. Spatial configuration of resources explained the least variation in our response variables, having a significant effect only on invertebrate abundance and evenness (both sampling occasions) and species richness (end of recovery period). 5. Even a short drought, if occurring late to the season, may not allow communities to recover before the onset of winter, thus having a potentially long-lasting effect on stream communities. For boreal headwaters, extreme dewatering poses a novel disturbance regime that may trigger substantial and potentially irreversible changes. An improved understanding of such changes is needed to underpin adaptive management strategies in these increasingly fragmented and disturbed ecosystems. 18-Dec-2020