Scale-specific land cover thresholds for conservation of stream invertebrate communities in agricultural landscapes
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In agricultural landscapes, riparian forests are used as a management tool to protect stream ecosystems from agricultural activities. However, the ability of managers to target stream protection actions is limited by incomplete knowledge of scale-specific effects of agriculture in riparian corridor and catchment areas.
We evaluated scale-specific effects of agricultural cover in riparian corridor and catchment areas on stream benthic macroinvertebrate (BMI) communities to develop cover targets for agricultural landscapes.
Sixty-eight streams assigned to three experimental treatments (Forested Riparian, Agricultural Riparian, Agricultural Catchment) were sampled for BMIs. Ordination and segmented regression were used to assess impacts of agriculture on BMI communities and detect thresholds for BMI community metrics.
BMI communities were not associated with catchment agricultural cover where the riparian corridor was forested, but were associated with variation in catchment agriculture where riparian forests had been converted to agriculture. Trait-based metrics showed threshold responses at greater than 70% agricultural cover in the catchment. Increasing agriculture in the riparian corridor was associated with less diverse and more tolerant BMI communities. Eight metrics exhibited threshold responses ranging from 45 to 75% agriculture in the riparian corridor.
Riparian forest effectively buffered streams from agricultural activity even where catchment agriculture exceeds 80%. We recommend managers prioritize protection of forested riparian corridors and that restore riparian corridors where agricultural cover is near identified thresholds be a secondary priority. Adoption of catchment management actions should be effective where the riparian corridor has been converted to agriculture.
KeywordsAgriculture Benthic macroinvertebrates Catchment Riparian corridor Scale-specific effects Threshold analysis
We thank R. Holmes for assistance with fieldwork and N. Pearce for statistical advice. R. Bailey and two anonymous reviewers provided comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. Funding was provided by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada Discovery Grant (AGY) and a Canadian Water Network Watershed Consortia Grant (AGY), as well as NSERC Collaborative Research and Training Experience Program (JPG) and Trillium Foundation (EMK) Scholarships.
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