Influence of selected biotopes on chironomid-based bioassessment of the Swartkops River, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Impact of pollution on aquatic biota is usually assessed by comparing the assemblage at an impacted site with those at a control or reference site. In South Africa, except in rivers where not all biotopes are represented, the characterisation of a macroinvertebrate-based pollution effect is usually based on samples collected from three distinct biotopes, i.e., stones, vegetation and sediments. In this study, the influence of reducing the numbers of biotopes on chironomid-based bioassessment of pollution in the Swartkops River was investigated. This paper addresses the following questions: (i) can the chironomid species assemblage from any single distinct biotope analysed separately provide sufficiently accurate results similar to those of the composite-biotope group assemblage, and (ii) can chironomid community types be identified based on their biotope preferences? Chironomid larvae were sampled seasonally from three distinct biotopes: stones (stone-inand- out-of-current), vegetation (marginal and aquatic), and sediment (gravel, sand and mud, GSM) at one upstream control site, i.e., Site 1, and three downstream sites, i.e., Sites 2, 3 and 4. Site 2 in Uitenhage was impacted by diffuse pollution sources including runoff from road networks. Site 3, also in Uitenhage, was impacted by wastewater effluent discharges as well as diffuse pollution sources, while Site 4 in Despatch was about 2.5 km downstream of Site 3. The multivariate analysis of similarity (ANOSIM) indicated that the chironomid species assemblages based on the composite biotopes were significantly different between all site pairs in terms of species composition and abundance. However, when the assemblages were analysed separately for each of the three distinct biotopes, only the stone-based assemblage indicated significant differences between all of the site pairs similarly to those of the composite biotopes. Thus, the results suggest that, when resources are limited, sampling only the stony benthos could still provide bioassessment results similar to benthos from all three biotopes combined.
Keywords: bioindicators, biotopes, chironomid, pollution, Swartkops River, South Africa.