Spatial and temporal variation of benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages during the glacial melt season in an Italian glacier-fed stream
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The biodiversity of glacier-fed streams is particularly threatened by climate change, emphasising the need of monitoring these sentinel systems. The glacier-fed Saldur stream is an International Long Term Ecological Research (ILTER) site in the Italian Central Eastern Alps. Here, we sampled benthic macroinvertebrates and measured environmental variables (discharge, suspended solids, conductivity, water temperature, and channel stability) five times at six sites (5–11 km from the glacier) during an entire glacial melt season (April–September). Our main objectives were (1) to elucidate relationships between the abiotic variables and the faunal composition, (2) to quantify and compare the spatial and temporal variability of the faunal community, and (3) to assess the composition of the benthic macroinvertebrate community in relation to conceptual models. Hosting a higher number of individuals and more diverse communities at sites with reduced glacial influence, the Saldur stream fitted well in the framework of conceptual models. Nevertheless, the spatial variability of the fauna was higher than the temporal variability. This study presents an initial characterisation of the benthic faunal assemblages in the Saldur stream, constituting a reference point for future analyses dealing with potential disruptive factors introduced by climate change and upcoming hydroelectric power production on this stream.