Original paper

Highly variable abiotic environment induced changes in taxonomic and functional composition of headwater chironomid assemblages within a small mountain range

Szivák, Ildikó; Móra, Arnold; Méhes, Nikoletta; Bereczki, Csaba; Ortmann-Ajkai, Adrienne; Csabai, Zoltán


The spatial variability of Chironomidae larvae assemblages was investigated at 6 near-pristine, temperate headwaters in Hungary. Sites were located within a relatively small mountain range but belong to two different catchment areas characterized by highly variable abiotic conditions. We hypothesised there would be differences in taxonomic composition but not in functional composition between different catchment areas and aimed to assess the primary influencing spatial factors structuring the taxonomic and functional compositions of chironomid assemblages. The spatial distribution of chironomid assemblages was examined 4 times during a 1 year period at microhabitat to catchment scales. At each site, streambed morphology, physicochemical attribute, riparian vegetation, microclimate and hydrology data were collected. Three main traits (saprobic preference, stream zonation preference, functional feeding groups) were used to characterize the functional composition of chironomid assemblages. Sharp differences were detected in taxonomic composition between the two sides of the mountain range within a relatively small spatial distance and moderate, but statistically significant differences in functional composition between catchments. The observed spatial changes in taxonomic and functional composition of midges accompanied changes in physicochemical characteristics, riparian vegetation, microclimate and altitude. Internal microhabitat heterogeneity also played a major role in structuring the taxonomic and the functional patterns of chironomid assemblages.


headwater chironomidaesmall mountain rangehabitat heterogeneityspatial variationtaxonomic and functional compositionmultivariate approaches