Oral Presentation Australian Society for Limnology Congress 2013

Resistance traits revealed: macroinvertebrates hang tough when the plug is pulled. (#32)

Edwin Chester 1 , Belinda Robson 1 , Scott Strachan 1 , Jane Chambers 1
  1. Murdoch University, Murdoch, WA, Australia

The life histories of freshwater invertebrates are being challenged by drought and the consequences of human-induced climate change. Decreased hydroperiods, potentially higher summer temperatures and a less predictable annual regime means a greater reliance on resistance traits. An ability to survive short or extended periods without free water might ultimately determine the viability of populations; this may be possible for some species, while others will have no capacity at all to survive without submersion. We can predict the latter result for many taxa. Other species, both gill and air breathing, have physical or physiological adaptations that may allow survival, but their actual capabilities are generally unknown. Drying experiments used invertebrates collected from urban lakes and drains. First, assemblages were exposed to drawdown then drying for up to 20 days, and then examined to determine survival: after an initial die off, most remaining species had relatively low mortality, with different modes of survival dependent on individual traits. There was also evidence of continuing viability and development, even when free interstitial water was lost. Common taxa were then kept in microcosms with prolonged drying while control animals were kept with water at the substrate surface. Coenagrionidae damselflies (Xanthagrion erythroneurum, Ischnura aurora, Ischnura heterosticta), Physa acuta snails and Triplectides australis caddisflies all had different and effective resistance traits, but survival was variable among collection locations. Relying on these traits has implications for individual development and consequently fitness: we will likely need to account for this in predicting the outcomes of climate change.