Disentangling the Effects of Multiple Stressors on Large Rivers Using Benthic Invertebrates—A Study of Southeastern European Large Rivers with Implications for Management
Predicting anthropogenic actions resulting in undesirable changes in aquatic systems is crucial for the development of effective and sustainable water management strategies. Due to the co-occurrence of stressors and a lack of appropriate data, the effects on large rivers are difficult to elucidate. To overcome this problem, we developed a partial canonical correspondence analyses (pCCA) model using 292 benthic invertebrate taxa from 104 sites that incorporated the effects of three stressors
... three stressors groups: hydromorphology, land use, and water quality. The data covered an environmental gradient from near-natural to heavily altered sites in five large rivers in Southeastern Europe. Prior to developing the multi-stressor model, we assessed the importance of natural characteristics on individual stressor groups. Stressors proved to be the dominant factors in shaping benthic invertebrate assemblages. The pCCA among stressor-groups showed that unique effects dominated over joint effects. Thus, benthic invertebrate assemblages were suitable for disentangling the specific effect of each of the three stressor groups. While the effects of hydromorphology were dominant, both water quality and land use effects were nearly equally important. Quantifying the specific effects of hydromorphological alterations, water quality, and land use will allow water managers to better understand how large rivers have changed and to better define expectations for ecosystem conditions in the future.