The response of macroinvertebrate richness and functional diversity to climate-related disturbance patterns in desert streams
Aquatic macroinvertebrates are important for many ecological processes within river ecosystems and, as a result, their abundance and diversity are considered indicators of water quality and ecosystem health. Macroinvertebrates can be classified into functional feeding groups (FFG) based on morphological-behavioral adaptations. FFG ratios can shift due to changes in normal disturbance patterns, such as changes in precipitation, and from human impact. Due to their increased sensitivity to environmental changes, it has become more important to protect and monitor aquatic and riparian communities in arid regions as climate change continues to intensify. Therefore, the diversity and richness of macroinvertebrate FFGs before and after monsoon and winter storm seasons were analyzed to determine the effect of flow-related disturbances. Ecosystem size was also considered, as watershed area has been shown to affect macroinvertebrate diversity. There was no strong support for flow-related disturbance or ecosystem size on macroinvertebrate diversity and richness. This may indicate a need to explore other parameters of macroinvertebrate community assembly. Establishing how disturbance affects aquatic macroinvertebrate communities will provide a key understanding as to what the stream communities will look like in the future, as anthropogenic impacts continue to affect more vulnerable ecosystems.