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Science of The Total Environment
Volume 821, 2022, 153053

Extreme drought scenario shapes different patterns of Chironomid coexistence in reservoirs in a semi-arid region

Dalescka Barbosa de Meloa, Marina Dolbethb, Franciely Ferreira Paivaa

Universidade Estadual da Paraíba, Campus I, Departamento de Biologia – Programa de Pós-graduação em Ecologia e Conservação, Av. Baraúnas, 351, Bairro Universitário, CEP: 58429-500, Campina Grande, Brazil.


Semi-arid regions are particularly prone to extreme climate events such as droughts, which result in drastic fluctuations in the water volume of aquatic ecosystems, including artificial ones. As these climate extremes intensify, species must adapt, however, not all species can persist under new climate regimes in such a short period of time. In this study, we evaluated how fluctuations in the water levels of reservoirs, caused by drought, affect Chironomidae diversity patterns in a semi-arid region. We studied six reservoirs (256 sites) in two basins in Northeastern Brazil, exposed to different levels of anthropic impact. Sampling was carried out in 2014, 2015 (both extremely dry years) and 2019. A dead water volume was attained during the extreme drought in 2015, consequently affecting the reservoir and resulting in a low diversity, abundance, and functional redundancy of the Chironomidae assemblages. Despite precipitation increases in 2019, some reservoirs continued to be water deficient. These drastic water fluctuations led to different patterns in Chironomidae taxonomic and functional diversity, which were also influenced by anthropic stressors. Thus, the most impacted basin presented lower diversity, with some species and trait turnover between reservoirs. The opposite trend was observed in the least impacted basin. Overall, taxonomic and functional diversity decreased with decreasing water volume, resulting in a community dominated by small-medium sized individuals with multivoltine cycles and hemoglobin and diapause resistant forms, conferring higher tolerance to water stress. The drought and consequent water volume fluctuations throughout the years seemed to exacerbate the water quality due to pre-existing exposure to anthropic impacts (e.g., domestic discharge, fishing activity, agriculture, livestock). This resulted in biotic homogenization, with an observed loss of taxa and traits. This study reinforced the need to implement habitat conservation and water quality improvement strategies to prevent further ecosystem damage in the face of climate change uncertainty.

Keywords: Anthropic impacts, Beta diversity, Biotic homogenization, Climate change, Chironomidae, Functional traits.

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