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Potential responses of oligochaetes (Annelida, Clitellata) to global changes: Experimental fertilization in a lowland stream of Argentina (South America)

Armendáriz, Laura, Ocón, Carolina, Rodrigues Capítulo, Alberto
Limnologica 2012 v.42 no.2 pp. 118-126
Enchytraeidae, Naididae, ammonium nitrogen, analysis of variance, aquatic plants, biomass, climate change, detritivores, environmental factors, eutrophication, fertilizers, freshwater, habitats, herbivores, indicator species, interspecific variation, monitoring, nitrate nitrogen, nutrient availability, nutrients, pollution load, reproduction, rivers, sediments, species diversity, streams, Argentina
One of the possible consequences of climatic change for streams and rivers in the pampean region of South America is an increment in nutrient loads. To analyze this possible perturbation on a biological scale, the response of oligochaetes to an experimental eutrophication of the La Choza Stream, Argentina was studied. We proposed that the addition of nutrients could increase the abundance, biomass, and species composition of the stream. Two stretches (Control and Treatment sites) were selected, with bimonthly samples being taken (March 2007 through February 2009) in two habitat types: the sediments and the aquatic vegetation. On each sampling occasion the environmental variables were measured. The nutrient addition consisted in the continuous dissolution of a commercial fertilizer. The oligochaete mean density and total biomass, the taxonomic richness, the Shannon diversity (H′), and the evenness (E) were calculated and the BACI ANOVA design used to compare the differences between the sites. Thirty-three species of the families Naididae (Naidinae, Pristininae, Tubificinae, and Rhyacodrilinae), Opistocystidae, Enchytraeidae plus Aphanoneura Aeolosomatidae were collected. The oligochaete abundance and biomass increased significantly in the sediments and on the aquatic vegetation, especially among the Naidinae and Pristininae during their asexual reproductive phase. The diversity and evenness varied significantly in the sediments with the nutrient addition. Significant differences in the species richness and diversity were found on the aquatic vegetation, with both increasing at the treatment site after the fertilization. A significant correlation (Spearman) was observed between the oligochaete density in the sediments and the NO₃-N and NH₄-N concentration in the water. The increment in the naidines resistant to the fertilizer throughout the experiment could be explained by the greater nutrient availability, their mode of reproduction, and their short life cycles. The results of our study suggested that the incorporation of nutrients modified the composition of the oligochaete assemblage in favor of herbivores and detrivores. The usefulness of these indicator organisms in monitoring freshwater systems is subsequently discussed.