Zooplankton in highly regulated rivers: Changing with water environment

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Journal Article
Ecological Engineering, 2013, 58 pp. 323 - 334
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The Huai River Basin (HRB) of China is well-known globally for the extent of severe human activities (e.g., waste disposal and water project construction) which have resulted in severe water pollution and subsequently degraded water ecosystem quality in recent decades. However, influence of water pollution on water ecosystems has not yet been fully realized due to lack of water ecosystem data. In food webs of freshwater ecosystems, zooplankton occupy a critical position but they are highly susceptible to pollutants and temperature which in turn impact the community structure and biodiversity of zooplankton to a great extent. This paper aimed to assess impact of water chemistry variation on zooplankton through ecological-niche models and spatial heterogeneity of zooplankton along with water chemistry in the HRB. We investigated the impacts of nine dominant water chemistry indicators on zooplankton distribution and composition via ecological niche models based on water chemistry status and zooplankton communities at 71 typical sites of the HRB. A fuzzy clustering method (FCM) was employed to help study the impact characteristics and the spatial heterogeneity. Results indicate that across the nine water chemistry indicators, changes in water temperature has minimal impact on the zooplankton community of the Huai River while small variation in ammonia-nitrogen exerts significant stress on the community; with respect to water temperature and total phosphorous zooplankton species in the HRB are coexisting with little competition; as to spatial heterogeneity of zooplankton communities, communities in the southwest and southeast mountainous regions may adapt well to habitat variations, while those in the middle and northeast areas have a weak adaptability to habitat changes. We concluded that in highly polluted rivers with large spatial heterogeneity of water chemistry, like the Huai River, ammonia-nitrogen exerted great stress on the zooplankton community in nonlinear way with too high or low concentration of ammonia-nitrogen leading to reduction in abundance of zooplankton; zooplankton communities in the HRB is mainly impacted by pollutant instead of water-temperature. All these can provide scientific support for future restoration and wise water resources planning and management in the Huai River. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.
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