Agriculture and elevation are the main factors for Pampasic stream habitat and water quality

  • Rafael Arocena
  • Guillermo Chalar
  • Juan Pablo Pacheco


Streams of the Pampasic plain in Southeastern South America are ecosystems affected by both water pollution and habitat alteration mainly due to agricultural activity. Water quality is influenced by the quality of habitats and both depend on land use and watershed morphology. The objective of this study was to determine the relationship between the variables of four factors: (1) the morphology of the watershed, (2) land use in the watershed, (3) river habitat, and (4) water quality of wadeable streams in Uruguay, as well as to determine the most representative variables to quantify such factors. We studied 28 watersheds grouped into three ecoregions and four principal activities, which generated seven zones with three to five streams each. Correlations between the variables of each factor allowed reducing the total number of variables from 57 to 32 to perform principal component analyses (PCA) by factor, reducing the number of variables to 18 for a general PCA. The first component was associated with water quality and elevation. The second was associated with the stream and watershed size, the third with habitat quality, and the fourth to the use of neighboring soils and objects in the channel. Our results indicate that agricultural intensity and elevation are the main factors associated with the habitat and water quality of these lowland streams. These factors must be especially considered in the development of water quality monitoring programs.


Watershed morphology Land use Habitat Wadeable plain rivers 



We are grateful to all colleagues who contributed to developing this study and two anonymous reviewers who improved greatly this article. We also thank Christine Lucas for her valuable suggestions to improve the manuscript.

Funding information

This study was partially financed by the National Direction of the Environment (DINAMA).


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Universidad de la RepúblicaMontevideoUruguay
  2. 2.Facultad de CienciasSección LimnologíaMontevideoUruguay
  3. 3.Laboratorio Ecología y Rehabilitación de Sistemas AcuáticosCentro Universitario Regional EsteMaldonadoUruguay

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