, Volume 562, Issue 1, pp 145–165 | Cite as

Littoral Chironomid Communities of Alpine Lakes in Relation to Environmental Factors

  • A. Boggero
  • L. Füreder
  • V. Lencioni
  • T. Simcic
  • B. Thaler
  • U. Ferrarese
  • A. F. Lotter
  • R. Ettinger


The results of a study of littoral chironomid communities from 89 lakes in the Alps are presented. The lakes are located on the northern and southern sides of the Alps from the western Bernese to the eastern Julian Alps. Due to the different origins of the data set here considered, different sampling years and sampling methodologies were adopted. All of the lakes were sampled during the ice-free season, but 79/89 lakes were sampled mainly in autumn 2000, while for a few of them the sample dated back to 1996 or the early 90s. Samples were taken by kicking the different substrata or a stretch of lakeshore (10–30 m) for at least 2–5 min with a standard net and were then preserved in alcohol. Larvae and pupal exuviae were sampled by skimming the lake surface with the same net, to extend identification to species level. Notwithstanding the large altitudinal gradient, almost all of the lakes are situated above the timberline, and show a wide range of morphological (depth, watershed and lake area) and chemical characteristics. Chironomids were the most abundant insects represented in these lakes, with highest abundances at pH between 6.0 and 7.5. In particular, Orthocladiinae and Chironominae were the two subfamilies with the widest distribution. Altitude and temperature played an important role in determining their distribution, the higher altitudes were dominated by the former, whereas the latter were more numerous in lower lakes. The prevalence of Orthocladiinae and Tanytarsini at high altitudes was regarded as a general pattern of taxonomic composition in harsh climatic areas. A reverse condition occurred only in the Julian Alps, where Tanytarsini dominate, followed by Tanypodinae and rare Orthocladiinae. Although our results demonstrated that the composition of chironomid assemblages was also determined by pH, the pattern was unbalanced. Due to the fact that no cases of strong water acidification were present, taxa restricted to very low pH were poorly represented (only three taxa—Limnophyes, Endochironomus and Orthocladius (O.) spp.) compared with circumneutral (8) and alkaline (14) taxa, which occurred in slightly acid and non-acidified soft water lakes. As regard conductivity and altitude, we found that almost all the taxa present at higher pH were contemporary present at conductivity higher than 100 μeq l−1 and altitude lower than 2100 m a.s.l. At species level, Pseudodiamesa branickii, Corynoneura arctica, Heterotrissocladius marcidus and Paratanytarsus austriacus resulted to be the most ubiquitous and abundant species in the Alps. When the west to east distribution of taxa was taken into account, Chironomini (particularly the genera Chironomus and Dicrotendipes) and Tanypodinae (Larsia and Paramerina) were more typical of the eastern lakes (JA). They may be better indicators of more alkaline waters. Assembling all the existing data and presenting a comprehensive panorama of lake-littoral chironomid taxa of the Alps was one of the aims of this paper. Further monitoring, but also harmonization of the sampling methodologies and taxonomical identification including inter-calibration exercises among laboratories are recommended, to provide reliable basis and more knowledge for future studies of comparative biogeography, and to preserve these environments where global climatic changes may cause abrupt shifts in the faunal assemblages with a loss of taxa typical of these mountainous areas.


lake-littoral chironomids distribution high altitude Alps pollution 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Boggero
    • 1
  • L. Füreder
    • 2
  • V. Lencioni
    • 3
  • T. Simcic
    • 4
  • B. Thaler
    • 5
  • U. Ferrarese
    • 6
  • A. F. Lotter
    • 7
  • R. Ettinger
    • 2
  1. 1.C.N.R.-Institute for Ecosystem Study (ISE)Verbania PallanzaItaly
  2. 2.Institute of Zoology and LimnologyUniversity of InnsbruckInnsbruckAustria
  3. 3.Department of Invertebrate Zoology and HydrobiologyMuseum of Natural ScienceTrentoItaly
  4. 4.National Institute of BiologyLjubljanaSlovenia
  5. 5.Laboratorio Biologico, Agenzia Provinciale per l’AmbienteLaivesItaly
  6. 6.U. FerraresePadovaItaly
  7. 7.Department of Palaeoecology, Laboratory of Palaeobotany and PalynologyUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

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