Land use patterns of a river basin have a significant effect on the structure and function of river ecosystems. Changes in the composition of riparian plant communities modify the quantity, quality and seasonality of leaf–litter inputs, determining changes in macroinvertebrate colonization and activity. The main goal of this study was to test the effect of land–use modifications, and particularly the impact of eucalypt plantations, on the macroinvertebrate communities of sixteen headwater streams. Macroinvertebrates were counted and identified to family level. Land uses were classified in five categories using aerial photography: native forest, eucalypt plantations, agricultural land, shrubland, and urban areas. We found that macroinvertebrate diversity increased with basin size and with the proportion of basin covered by native forest. This variable correlated negatively with the land occupied by eucalypt plantations. Macroinvertebrate richness diminished with the increase of land surface covered by eucalypt plantations, and a similar tendency was observed with diversity. Furthermore, streams whose drainage basin was mainly covered by Eucalyptus were more likely to dry up in summer. This observation adds to evidence from previous studies that concluded that fast–growing tree plantations affect hydric resources, an important ecosystem service in the context of global warming. To minimize the impact of industrial sylviculture, we suggest that maintaining and/or restoring riparian forests could mitigate the effects of intensive eucalypt monocultures.
Eucalyptus globulus, Biodiversity, River ecosystems, Land uses, Forest, Tree plantations
Reception date: 16 III 16 | Acceptation date: 5 X 16 | Publication date: 31 I 17
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