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Measurement of the Ecological Integrity of Cerrado Streams Using Biological Metrics and the Index of Habitat Integrity

Reis, Deusiano Florêncio dos, Salazar, Ayala Eduardo, Machado, Mayana Mendes Dias, Couceiro, Sheyla Regina Marques, Morais, Paula Benevides de
Insects 2017 v.8 no.1
Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, Trichoptera, anthropogenic activities, aquatic communities, aquatic invertebrates, cattle, cerrado, deforestation, dissolved oxygen, ecosystems, electrical conductivity, environmental monitoring, fire science and management, habitats, macroinvertebrates, oxygen, pH, pastures, pollution, riparian areas, streams, temperature, total dissolved solids, watersheds, Amazonia, Brazil
Generally, aquatic communities reflect the effects of anthropogenic changes such as deforestation or organic pollution. The Cerrado stands among the most threatened ecosystems by human activities in Brazil. In order to evaluate the ecological integrity of the streams in a preserved watershed in the Northern Cerrado biome corresponding to a mosaic of ecosystems in transition to the Amazonia biome in Brazil, biological metrics related to diversity, structure, and sensitivity of aquatic macroinvertebrates were calculated. Sampling included collections along stretches of 200 m of nine streams and measurements of abiotic variables (temperature, electrical conductivity, pH, total dissolved solids, dissolved oxygen, and discharge) and the Index of Habitat Integrity (HII). The values of the abiotic variables and the HII indicated that most of the streams have good ecological integrity, due to high oxygen levels and low concentrations of dissolved solids and electric conductivity. Two streams showed altered HII scores mainly related to small dams for recreational and domestic use, use of Cerrado natural pasture for cattle raising, and spot deforestation in bathing areas. However, this finding is not reflected in the biological metrics that were used. Considering all nine streams, only two showed satisfactory ecological quality (measured by Biological Monitoring Working Party (BMWP), total richness, and EPT (Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera) richness), only one of which had a low HII score. These results indicate that punctual measures of abiotic parameters do not reveal the long-term impacts of anthropic activities in these streams, including related fire management of pasture that annually alters the vegetation matrix and may act as a disturbance for the macroinvertebrate communities. Due to this, biomonitoring of low order streams in Cerrado ecosystems of the Northern Central Brazil by different biotic metrics and also physical attributes of the riparian zone such as HII is recommended for the monitoring and control of anthropic impacts on aquatic communities.