Aquatic Sciences

, 81:62 | Cite as

Ecological effects of a supra-seasonal drought on macroinvertebrate communities differ between near-perennial and ephemeral river reaches

  • M. J. HillEmail author
  • K. L. Mathers
  • S. Little
  • T. Worrall
  • J. Gunn
  • P. J. Wood
Research Article


The duration, intensity and frequency of hydrological droughts are predicted to increase significantly over the 21st century globally, threatening the long-term stability of lotic communities. In this paper we examine the recovery and recolonization of macroinvertebrate taxa in ephemeral and near perennial reaches of the River Lathkill (UK) after a supra-seasonal drought event. Following flow resumption, species accumulation (recolonization) occurred rapidly over a 4-month period, with a steady increase observed thereafter. Taxonomic richness was significantly higher in the section with near perennial flow after the first month of the study than the naturally ephemeral reach. Serial correlation was observed in the near perennial section but not in the upstream ephemeral reach. Serial correlation in the near perennial section may reflect: (1) the ongoing process of recovery or (2) the macroinvertebrate community following a new ecological trajectory. Our results suggest that supra-seasonal droughts may cause initial reductions in lotic diversity during stream desiccation events but may re-set ecological succession and/or temporarily provide new ecological niches, thereby supporting increased taxonomic diversity when the full range of hydrological conditions are considered. Quantifying the recovery of ecological communities following supra-seasonal drought can provide information to help develop ecologically effective conservation and management strategies.


Aquatic conservation Biodiversity Community composition Disturbance Ephemeral streams Lotic habitat 



We would like to acknowledge the technical support of Stuart Ashby and Barry Kenny in undertaking this research. Natural England gave permission for invertebrate sampling and funded collection of hydrological data in Lathkill Dale through grants to JG. Kevin Bull (former Senior Reserve Manager/Group Coordinator, Derbyshire Dales National Nature Reserve) and Shaun Taylor (Reserve Manager, Derbyshire Dales National Nature Reserve) are thanked for their assistance and support.

Supplementary material

27_2019_659_MOESM1_ESM.docx (15 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 14 kb)


  1. Anderson MJ, Gorley RN, Clarke KR (2008) PERMANOVA+ for PRIMER: guide to software and statistical methods. PRIMER-E, PlymouthGoogle Scholar
  2. Arscott DB, Larned S, Scarsbrook MR, Lambert P (2010) Aquatic invertebrate community structure along an intermittence gradient: Selwyn River, New Zealand. J N Am Benthol Soc 29:530–545Google Scholar
  3. Aspin TW, Matthews TJ, Khamis K, Milner AM, Wang Z, O’callaghan MJ, Ledger ME (2018) Drought intensification drives turnover of structure and function in stream invertebrate communities. Ecography 41:1992–2004Google Scholar
  4. Aspin TW, Hart K, Khamis K, Milner AM, O’Callaghan MJ, Trimmer M, Wang Z, Williams GM, Woodward G, Ledger ME (2019) Drought intensification alters the composition, body size, and trophic structure of invertebrate assemblages in a stream mesocosm experiment. Freshw Biol 64:750–760Google Scholar
  5. Barton K (2018) Multi modal inference. R package version 1.42.1. Accessed 20 Jul 2019
  6. Bates D, Maechler M, Bolker B, Walker S, Christensen RHB, Singmann H, Dai B, Scheipl F, Grothendieck G, Green P (2018) Linear Mixed-Effects Models using “Eigen” and S4. R package version 1.1-18-1. Accessed 20 Jul 2019
  7. Benejam L, Angermeier PL, Munne A, Garcia Berthou E (2010) Assessing effects of water abstraction on fish assemblages in Mediterranean streams. Freshw Biol 55:628–642Google Scholar
  8. Bogan MT, Lytle DA (2011) Severe drought drives novel community trajectories in desert stream pools. Freshw Biol 56:2070–2081Google Scholar
  9. Bogan MT, Boersma KS, Lytle DA (2015) Resistance and resilience of invertebrate communities to seasonal and supraseasonal drought in arid-land headwater streams. Freshw Biol 60:2547–2558Google Scholar
  10. Boulton AJ (2003) Parallels and contrasts in the effects of drought on stream macroinvertebrate assemblages. Freshw Biol 48:1173–1185Google Scholar
  11. Boulton AJ Lake PS (2008) Effects of drought on stream insects and its ecological consequences. Aquatic insects: challenges to populations, pp 81–102Google Scholar
  12. Chadd RP, England JA, Constable D, Dunbar MJ, Extence CA, Leeming DJ, Murray-Bligh JA, Wood PJ (2017) An index to track the ecological effects of drought development and recovery on riverine invertebrate communities. Ecol Indic 82:344–356Google Scholar
  13. Chessman BC (2015) Relationships between lotic macroinvertebrate traits and responses to extreme drought. Freshw Biol 60:50–63Google Scholar
  14. Chester ET, Robson BJ (2011) Drought refuges, spatial scale and recolonization by invertebrates in non-perennial streams. Freshw Biol 56:2094–2104Google Scholar
  15. Chester ET, Miller AD, Valenzuela I, Wickson SJ, Robson BJ (2015) Drought survival strategies, dispersal potential and persistence of invertebrate species in an intermittent stream landscape. Freshw Biol 60:2066–2083Google Scholar
  16. Churchel MA, Batzer DP (2006) Recovery of aquatic macroinvertebrate communities from drought in Georgia piedmont headwater streams. Am Midl Nat 156:259–272Google Scholar
  17. Clarke KR, Gorley RN (2006) PRIMER v6: user manual/tutorial. PRIMER E-Ltd: Plymouth, UKGoogle Scholar
  18. Côté IM, Darling ES (2010) Rethinking ecosystem resilience in the face of climate change. PLoS Biol 2010:8. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Datry T (2012) Benthic and Hyporheic invertebrate assemblages along a flow intermittence gradient: effects of duration of dry events. Freshw Biol 57:563–574Google Scholar
  20. Datry T, Larned ST, Fritz KM, Bogan MT, Wood PJ, Meyer EI, Santos EN (2013) Broad-scale patterns of invertebrate richness and community composition in temporary rivers: effects of flow intermittence. Ecography 36:001–011Google Scholar
  21. Datry T, Larned ST, Tockner K (2014) Intermittent rivers: a challenge for freshwater ecology. Bioscience. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Davy-Bowker J (2002) A mark and recapture study of water beetles (Coleoptera: Dytiscidae) in a group of semi-permanent and temporary ponds. Aquat Ecol 36:435–446Google Scholar
  23. Dobrin M, Giberson DJ (2003) Life history and production of mayflies, stoneflies, and caddisflies (Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera) in a spring-fed stream in Prince Edward Island, Canada: evidence for population asynchrony in spring habitats? Can J Zool 81:1083–1095Google Scholar
  24. Fisher SG (1983) Succession in streams. Stream ecology. Springer, Boston, pp 7–27Google Scholar
  25. Fritz KM, Dodds WK (2004) Resistance and resilience of macroinvertebrate assemblages to drying and flood in a tall grass prairie steam system. Hydrobiologia 527:99–112Google Scholar
  26. Gasith A, Resh VH (1999) Streams in Mediterranean climate regions: abiotic influences and biotic responses to predictable seasonal events. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 30:51–81Google Scholar
  27. Giller PS, Twomey H (1993) Benthic macroinvertebrate community organisation in two contrasting rivers: between-site differences and seasonal patterns. In: biology and environment: proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy (pp 115–126). Royal Irish AcademyGoogle Scholar
  28. Hill MJ, Milner VS (2018) Ponding in intermittent streams: a refuge for lotic taxa and a habitat for newly colonising taxa? Sci Total Environ 628–629:1308–1316PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. James ABW, Dewson ZS, Death RG (2008) Do stream macroinvertebrates use instream refugia in response to severe short-term flow reduction in New Zealand streams? Freshw Biol 53:1316–1334Google Scholar
  30. Kennen JG, Riskin ML, Charles EG (2014) Effects of streamflow reductions on aquatic macroinvertebrates: Linking groundwater withdrawals and assemblage response in southern New Jersey streams, USA. Hydrol J Sci 59:545–561Google Scholar
  31. Lake PS (2003) Ecological effects of perturbation by drought in flowing waters. Freshw Biol 48:1161–1172Google Scholar
  32. Lake PS (2011) Drought and aquatic ecosystems: effects and responses. Wiley-Balckwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  33. Larned ST, Datry T, Arscott DB, Tockner K (2010) Emerging concepts in temporary-river ecology. Freshw Biol 5:717–738Google Scholar
  34. Leberfinger K, Herrmann J (2010) Secondary production of invertebrate shredders in open-canopy, intermittent streams on the island of O¨ land SE Sweden. J N Am Benthol Soc 29:934–944Google Scholar
  35. Leigh C, Bonada N, Boulton AJ, Hugueny B, Larned ST, Vander Vorste R, Datry T (2016) Invertebrate assemblage responses and the dual roles of resistance and resilience to drying in intermittent rivers. Aquat Sci 78:291–301Google Scholar
  36. Leunda PM, Oscoz J, Miranda R, Ariño AH (2009) Longitudinal and seasonal variation of the benthic macroinvertebrate community and biotic indices in an undisturbed Pyrenean river. Ecol Indic 9:52–63Google Scholar
  37. Lytle DA, Poff NL (2004) Adaptation to natural flow regimes. Trends Ecol Evol 19:94–100PubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Marsh TJ, Parry S, Kendon MC, Hannaford J (2013) The 2010-12 drought and subsequent extensive flooding. Centre for Ecology and HydrologyGoogle Scholar
  39. Milner AM, Robertson AL, Monaghan KA, Veal AJ, Flory EA (2008) Colonization and development of an Alaskan stream community over 28 years. Front Ecol Environ 6:413–419Google Scholar
  40. Parry S, Marsh T, Kendon MC (2013) 2012: from drought to floods in England and Wales. Weather 68:268–274Google Scholar
  41. Prudhomme C, Guintoli I, Robinson EL, Clark DB, Arnell NW, Dankers R, Fekete BM, Franssen W, Gerten D, Gosling SN, Hagemann S, Hannah DM, Kim H, Masaki Y, Satoh Y, Stacke T, Wada Y, Wisser D (2014) Hydrological droughts in the 21st Century, hotspots and uncertainties from a global multimodel ensemble experiment. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 111:3262–3267Google Scholar
  42. Rahiz M, New M (2013) 21st century drought scenarios for the UK. Water Resour. Manag. 27:1039–1061Google Scholar
  43. Ricklefs RE, Schluter D (1993) Species diversity in ecological communities. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, p 414Google Scholar
  44. Robson BJ, Chester ET, Austin CM (2011) Why life history information matters: drought refuges and macroinvertebrate persistence in non-perennial streams subject to a drier climate. Mar Freshw Res 62:801–810Google Scholar
  45. Sarremejane R, Mykrä H, Bonada N, Aroviita J, Muotka T (2017) Habitat connectivity and dispersal ability drive the assembly mechanisms of macroinvertebrate communities in river networks. Freshw Biol 62:1073–1082Google Scholar
  46. Sheldon F, Bunn SE, Hughes JM, Arthington AH, Balcombe SR, Fellows CS (2010) Ecological roles and threats to aquatic refugia in arid landscapes: dryland river waterholes. Mar Freshw Res 61:885–895Google Scholar
  47. Skoulikidis NT, Sabater S, Datry T, Morais MM, Buffagni A, Dörflinger G, Zogaris S, del Mar Sánchez-Montoya M, Bonada N, Kalogianni E, Rosado J (2017) Non-perennial Mediterranean rivers in Europe: status, pressures, and challenges for research and management. Sci Total Environ 577:1–18PubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Soria M, Leigh C, Datry T, Bini LM, Bonada N (2017) Biodiversity in perennial and intermittent rivers: a meta analysis. Oikos 126:1078–1089Google Scholar
  49. Sponseller RA, Grimm NB, Boulton AJ, Sabo JL (2010) Responses of macroinvertebrate communities to long-term flow variability in a Sonoran Desert stream. Glob Change Biol 16:2891–2900Google Scholar
  50. Stubbington R, Datry T (2013) The macroinvertebrate seedbank promotes community persistence in temporary rivers across climate zones. Freshw Biol 58:1202–1220Google Scholar
  51. Stubbington R, Greenwood AM, Wood PJ, Armitage PD, Gunn J, Robertson AL (2009a) The response of perennial and headwater stream invertebrate communities to hydrological extremes. Hydrobiologia 630:229–312Google Scholar
  52. Stubbington R, Wood PJ, Boulton AJ (2009b) Low flow controls on benthic and hyporheic macroinvertebrate assemblages during supra-seasonal drought. Hydrol Process 23:2252–2263Google Scholar
  53. Stubbington R, Wood PJ, Reid I, Gunn J (2011) Benthic and hyporheic invertebrate community responses to seasonal flow recession in a ground water dominated stream. Ecohydrology 4:500–511Google Scholar
  54. Stubbington R, Boulton AJ, Little S, Wood PJ (2015) Changes in invertebrate assemblage composition in benthic and hyporheic zones during a severe supraseasonal drought. Freshw Sci 34:344–354Google Scholar
  55. Stubbington R, Gunn J, Little S, Worrall TP, Wood PJ (2016) Macroinvertebrate seedbank composition in relation to antecedent duration of drying and multiple wet-dry cycles in a temporary stream. Freshw Biol 61:1293–1307Google Scholar
  56. R Development Core Team (2015) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, ViennaGoogle Scholar
  57. Vadher AN, Leigh C, Millett J, Stubbington R, Wood PJ (2017) Vertical movements through subsurface stream sediments by benthic macroinvertebrates during experimental drying are influenced by sediment characteristics and species traits. Freshw Biol 62:1730–1740Google Scholar
  58. Vander Vorste R, Corti R, Sagouis A, Datry T (2015) Invertebrate communities in gravel bed, braided rivers are highly resilient to flow intermittence. Freshw Sci. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Verberk WCEP, Siepel H, Esselink H (2008) Life-history strategies in freshwater macroinvertebrates. Freshw Biol 53:1722–1738Google Scholar
  60. White JC, House A, Punchard N, Hannah DM, Wilding MA, Wood PJ (2018) Macroinvertebrate community responses to hydrological controls and groundwater abstraction effects across intermittent and perennial headwater streams. Sci Total Environ 610–611:1514–1526PubMedGoogle Scholar
  61. Williams DD (2006) The biology of temporary waters. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  62. Williams DD, Hynes HBN (1976) The recolonization mechanisms of stream benthos. Oikos 27:265–272Google Scholar
  63. Wood PJ, Armitage PD (2004) The response of the macroinvertebrate community to low flow variability and supraseasonal drought within a groundwater dominated stream. Arch Hydrobiol 161:1–20Google Scholar
  64. Wood PJ, Petts GE (1999) The influence of drought on chalk stream macroinvertebrates. Hydrol Process 13:387–399Google Scholar
  65. Wood PJ, Gunn J, Smith H, Abas-Kutty A (2005) Flow permanence and macroinvertebrate community diversity within groundwater dominated headwater streams and springs. Hydrobiologia 545:55–64Google Scholar
  66. Wright JF, Clarke RT, Gunn RMJ, Kneebone NT, Davy-Bowker J (2004) Impact of major changes in flow regime on the macroinvertebrate assemblages of four chalk stream sites, 1997–2001. River Res Appl 20:775–794Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. J. Hill
    • 1
    Email author
  • K. L. Mathers
    • 2
  • S. Little
    • 3
  • T. Worrall
    • 4
  • J. Gunn
    • 5
  • P. J. Wood
    • 6
  1. 1.School of Applied SciencesUniversity of HuddersfieldHuddersfieldUK
  2. 2.Department of Surface Waters Research and ManagementEawag (Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology)KastanienbaumSwitzerland
  3. 3.School of Animal Rural and Environmental SciencesNottingham Trent UniversitySouthwellUK
  4. 4.APEM LimitedCambridgeUK
  5. 5.School of Geography, Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK
  6. 6.Geography and Environment, Loughborough UniversityLoughboroughUK

Personalised recommendations