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Community persistence among stream invertebrates tracks the North Atlantic Oscillation

Ormerod, Stephen James and Bradley, David 2001. Community persistence among stream invertebrates tracks the North Atlantic Oscillation. Journal of Animal Ecology 70 (6) , pp. 987-996. 10.1046/j.0021-8790.2001.00551.x

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• 1. The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) affects marine ecosystems, lakes and some terrestrial ecosystems around the Atlantic rim, but evidence for effects on rivers is scarce. For 14 years, we sampled riverine macroinvertebrates in eight independent streams from the Llyn Brianne experimental catchments in central Wales. We assessed whether year-to-year persistence in rank abundance and species composition tracked the NAO. • 2. Persistence was quasi-cyclical and varied synchronously across all streams, irrespective of chemistry and catchment land use. Invertebrate communities in all stream types or habitats switched significantly from being highly persistent during negative phases of the NAO (winter index < 1 = cold, dry winters) to unstable during positive phases (> 1 = mild, wet winters). These effects occurred in both rare and common taxa. • 3. Acid episodes could not explain low persistence in positive NAO years because variations in acid-base status were not linked to the NAO. Moreover, fluctuations in persistence were apparent even in well-buffered streams. • 4. Discharge in adjacent gauged catchments increased in positive NAO years by 15–18% but neither flow variability nor flow maxima were higher. Nor were variations in invertebrate persistence at Llyn Brianne directly correlated with discharge pattern. Discharge variations alone were therefore insufficient to explain links between persistence and the NAO, but we cannot exclude subtle effects due either to flow or temperature. • 5. These data illustrate how the persistence of invertebrate communities varies through time in fluctuating environments. Positive phases of the NAO are accompanied by ecological instability in the Llyn Brianne streams, although the exact mechanisms are currently unclear. The effects of the NAO might confound or obscure other long-term change in rivers such as recovery from acidification or the effects of global warming.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Uncontrolled Keywords: Aquatic insects ; Climatic variation ; Constancy ; Disturbance ; Stability
ISSN: 0021-8790
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 01:38

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