Spring forth diversity: specialist species contribute to the conservation value of headwater springs and streams at the landscape scale

Kabir, J., Biondi, G., Gething, K.J. ORCID: 0000-0002-4997-0249, Aspin, T., Sykes, T. and Stubbington, R. ORCID: 0000-0001-8475-5109, 2024. Spring forth diversity: specialist species contribute to the conservation value of headwater springs and streams at the landscape scale. River Research and Applications. ISSN 1535-1459

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Headwater springs and streams often occur in relatively remote areas, reducing their exposure to human influences and thus increasing their collective capacity to support high biodiversity. Their aquatic macroinvertebrate communities can include species of conservation interest, some of which are specialists associated with groundwater inputs, low water temperature or temporary flow. However, the inaccessibility of some spring and stream networks has left their communities poorly characterized, limiting our capacity to implement effective conservation strategies. We characterized the biodiversity and conservation value of macroinvertebrate communities in a network of 51 relatively inaccessible and unimpacted headwater spring and stream sites spanning multiple catchments in a single landscape type: the chalk downland of south England. At each site, we kick sampled macroinvertebrate communities and recorded environmental variables, including flow permanence. To represent each community, we calculated taxa richness, coverage-adjusted Hill-Shannon diversity, the local contribution to beta diversity, and an index of richness and species rarity. We used the latter three metrics to rank sites based on their biodiversity and conservation value and analyzed relationships between metrics and environmental variables. We found specialists of springs, cold waters, groundwaters and temporary flow regimes, including rare species of conservation value. Some metrics responded to environmental variables, but top-ranking sites had highly variable environmental characteristics. We highlight the value of individual headwater streams with contrasting characteristics as contributors to ecologically heterogeneous site networks. Our results can inform landscape-scale management strategies that protect headwaters as refuges that support biodiverse communities, including rare species, as they adapt to global change.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: River Research and Applications
Creators: Kabir, J., Biondi, G., Gething, K.J., Aspin, T., Sykes, T. and Stubbington, R.
Publisher: Wiley
Date: 29 March 2024
ISSN: 1535-1459
Rights: © 2024 The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Divisions: Schools > School of Science and Technology
Record created by: Melissa Cornwell
Date Added: 25 Apr 2024 09:20
Last Modified: 25 Apr 2024 09:20
URI: https://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/51341

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