Links between anthropogenic perturbations and benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages in Afromontane forest streams in Uganda
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Relationships between environmental variables and benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages were investigated among several sites that varied in disturbance history in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, an Afromontane site in East Africa. Environmental variables were correlated with the level of past catchment disturbance – logging, agricultural encroachment, and present tourism activity. For example, sites in medium and high disturbance categories had higher values of specific conductance and lower water transparency than low disturbance category sites, these environmental variables may therefore act indicators of ecological quality of rivers. Environmental variables such as conductivity and water transparency were found to be good predictors of benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages, with anthropogenicallystressed sites having lower diversity than the reference sites. Impacted sites were dominated by tolerant taxasuch as chironomid and leeches, while ‘clean water’ taxa such as Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera and Trichoptera dominated at minimally impacted sites. Comparison of sites with different disturbance histories provided evidence for differences in benthic macroinvertebrate communities that reflect the state of forest restoration and recovery. We recommend quarterly monitoring of water quality to act as an early warning system of deterioration and tracking ecological recovery of previously impacted sites.
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