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A trait database for southern African freshwater invertebrates

Oghenekaro N. Odume
Frank C. Akamagwuna
Pindiwe Ntloko
Helen F. Dallas
Chika F. Nnadozie
Helen M. Barber-James


Invertebrates are often used as indicators of ecosystem health. In community ecology, the use of organism traits (e.g. behavioural, biological or  ecological) can be of value in relation to impact diagnosis and assemblage prediction. It has also been recognised that certain traits are related to  ecosystem function, and their use in biological monitoring provide insights into ecosystem functional responses to stressors. However, the paucity of trait  information and non-availability of a local trait database for southern African invertebrates impede progress in using this approach for biological  monitoring. To address this critical gap, we compiled an updateable trait database for southern African freshwater invertebrates. The database contains  information on 40 trait categories and 204 trait attribute/modalities. Of the 40 trait categories included in the database, 12 are biological, 12 are  behavioural, and 16 are ecological preferences. The database is designed to accommodate taxonomic flexibility. In this regard, trait information is  entered at multiple taxonomic levels: family, genus, and species, allowing researchers working at different taxonomic resolutions to retrieve relevant  information. While there are still gaps in the database, this effort represents the first attempt to synthesise available trait information on southern African  freshwater invertebrates.