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Upstream refugia and dispersal ability may override benthic-community responses to high-Andean streams deforestation

González-Trujillo, Juan David, Petsch, Danielle K., Córdoba-Ariza, Gabriela, Rincón-Palau, Katterine, Donato-Rondon, Jhon Ch., Castro-Rebolledo, Maria I., Sabater, Sergi
Biodiversity and conservation 2019 v.28 no.6 pp. 1513-1531
Bacillariophyceae, Chironomidae, Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, benthic organisms, deforestation, forests, insect communities, refuge habitats, rivers, species diversity, streams, tropics, Andes region
Deforestation is a major driver of biodiversity loss in the Tropical region, but the role of upstream refugia and dispersal ability on the community response to this disturbance is unknown. We assessed the relevance of undisturbed upstream patches (“refugia”) on the responses of benthic communities to forest cover loss. We selected four Andean rivers with a well-protected forest in their upstream section and different degree of forest cover loss downstream and evaluated the dissimilarity patterns of three benthic communities (diatoms, Chironomidae, and the assemblage of Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera and Trichoptera—‘EPT’) along their water courses. We evaluated the dissimilarity by using Euclidean (environment), Sørensen (incidence data) and Morisita–Horn (abundance data) pairwise distances. We found that diatom beta-diversity, as organisms with passive but higher dispersal ability, significantly tracked the environmental changes caused by forest loss. However, insect communities, whose a priori are active dispersers and can track for suitable conditions, were weakly affected by deforestation. These results provide evidences that the existence of well-preserved upstream reaches along patched corridors may allow non-tolerant species to remain extant throughout dispersal-driven feedbacks. This being the case in the Andean streams, effects of deforestation on benthic communities were small, and not uniform. Our results reinforce the strategy of preserving upstream sections in order to achieve successful restoration or rehabilitation goals.