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Synthesising the trait information of European Chironomidae (Insecta: Diptera): Towards a new database
- Serra, Sónia R.Q., Cobo, Fernando, Graça, Manuel A.S., Dolédec, Sylvain, Feio, Maria João
- Ecological indicators 2016 v.61 pp. 282-292
- Chironomidae, Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, Trichoptera, aquatic insects, biological assessment, biomass, databases, eutrophication, habitats, lakes, larvae, macroinvertebrates, multivariate analysis, phylogeny, rivers, species identification, streams
- Chironomidae are among the most conspicuous and ecological diverse group of freshwater invertebrates. They may dominate unimpacted communities in abundance and biomass, accounting for more than 50% of macroinvertebrate species in standing and flowing waters. In deep zones of eutrophic lakes and highly human-impacted streams, they are often the only family of aquatic insects remaining. In bioassessment programmes, Chironomids are often identified at the family and subfamily levels, due to difficulties in the taxonomic identification of larvae resulting from a high intrinsic morphological similarity. This may potentially result in bias as, similarly to Ephemeroptera, Trichoptera or Plecoptera, Chironomidae species, which are replaced along natural and human-impacted gradients due to differences in their ecological requirements. Recently, multiple trait-based approaches have been proposed to complement taxonomic-based assessment of streams and rivers using macroinvertebrates. However, the lack of specific trait information for Chironomidae prevents their use in the functional assessment of communities. Therefore, here, we aimed to: (1) develop a trait database for European Chironomidae genera that can be used in future bioassessment and ecological studies; (2) evaluate, by multivariate analyses, whether our new database provides additional information on Chironomidae compared to the trait information provided in the commonly used European trait database (Tachet et al., 2010); and (3) determine whether the new information on Eltonian traits (proxy to biological traits) translates the most accepted phylogenetic relationships among Chironomidae subfamilies. We gathered information on 744 species and 178 genera, for 37 traits covering 186 trait categories, and found substantial differences between our database and the commonly used European trait database. In addition, available information on traits was not always in agreement with phylogenetic relationships among subfamilies. Orthocladiinae and Chironominae which are considered sister groups in evolutionary terms actually showed confident trait relatedness based on Eltonian traits tree while the remaining relationships between subfamilies are questionable. In addition, different traits can occur in closely related taxa depending on the environmental drivers operating on their habitats. Our study reveals that the usually accepted redundancy within the Chironomidae family and subfamilies must be a product of averaging the information from finer taxonomic resolution added to the substantial lack of information for this insect group.