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Response of benthic invertebrate communities to a land use gradient in tropical highland streams in Nigeria

D.M. Umar
J.S. Harding
H.M. Chapman


Benthic invertebrate communities have been shown to respond to habitat  degradation as a result of land use changes. Although these changes have been well documented in temperate regions, their effects in the tropics have been poorly documented particularly where land use activities differ markedly (e.g., tea, maize and plantations). A survey 55 1st and 2nd order highland tropical streams, across four land use categories, ranging from continuous tropical montane rain forest to intensive crops and pasture. Streams were sampled in the tropical dry season (October–March) for physico-chemical parameters and components of the biological community, (i.e., fine particulate organic matter [FPOM], coarse particulate organic matter [CPOM], algae and benthic invertebrates). Catchment riparian conditions and human water use activities were used to generate a multivariate land use intensity gradient score. Temperatures in pasture streams were warmer than forest streams (up to 25oC) and dissolved oxygen levels frequently low (15–79%). However, physico-chemical conditions did not show any clear patterns across land uses categories. In contrast, benthic invertebrate communities showed strong response with the highest taxonomic diversity in continuous forest streams (mean 20 taxa) and the lowest in streams with intensive crops (e.g., cabbage crops, mean 8 taxa). Marked changes were found in invertebrate communities with several taxa occurring primarily in forested streams (e.g., the mayflies Heptageniidae and Oligoneuriidae and brachyuran crabs). Tropical land use farming (e.g., tea, maize, cabbage) have significant impacts on the benthic invertebrate assemblages of highland streams in Nigeria. However, not all crop and plantation streams had highly impacted communities because some have wider riparian buffer zones. This study further highlight the importance of conservation and management of montane forest fragments in these regions

Keywords: Tropical, Nigeria, highland, benthic invertebrates, land use, degradation

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eISSN: 0795-0101