Institut für Ökologie, Evolution und Diversität
Do contaminants originating from state-of-the-art treated wastewater impact the ecological quality of surface waters?
- Since the 1980s, advances in wastewater treatment technology have led to considerably improved surface water quality in the urban areas of many high income countries. However, trace concentrations of organic wastewater-associated contaminants may still pose a key environmental hazard impairing the ecological quality of surface waters. To identify key impact factors, we analyzed the effects of a wide range of anthropogenic and environmental variables on the aquatic macroinvertebrate community. We assessed ecological water quality at 26 sampling sites in four urban German lowland river systems with a 0–100% load of state-of-the-art biological activated sludge treated wastewater. The chemical analysis suite comprised 12 organic contaminants (five phosphor organic flame retardants, two musk fragrances, bisphenol A, nonylphenol, octylphenol, diethyltoluamide, terbutryn), 16 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and 12 heavy metals. Non-metric multidimensional scaling identified organic contaminants that are mainly wastewater-associated (i.e., phosphor organic flame retardants, musk fragrances, and diethyltoluamide) as a major impact variable on macroinvertebrate species composition. The structural degradation of streams was also identified as a significant factor. Multiple linear regression models revealed a significant impact of organic contaminants on invertebrate populations, in particular on Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera species. Spearman rank correlation analyses confirmed wastewater-associated organic contaminants as the most significant variable negatively impacting the biodiversity of sensitive macroinvertebrate species. In addition to increased aquatic pollution with organic contaminants, a greater wastewater fraction was accompanied by a slight decrease in oxygen concentration and an increase in salinity. This study highlights the importance of reducing the wastewater-associated impact on surface waters. For aquatic ecosystems in urban areas this would lead to: (i) improvement of the ecological integrity, (ii) reduction of biodiversity loss, and (iii) faster achievement of objectives of legislative requirements, e.g., the European Water Framework Directive.
Species richness-environment relationships of European arthropods at two spatial grains: habitats and countries
Martin H. Entling
Ben A. Woodcock
- We study how species richness of arthropods relates to theories concerning net primary productivity, ambient energy, water-energy dynamics and spatial environmental heterogeneity. We use two datasets of arthropod richness with similar spatial extents (Scandinavia to Mediterranean), but contrasting spatial grain (local habitat and country). Samples of ground-dwelling spiders, beetles, bugs and ants were collected from 32 paired habitats at 16 locations across Europe. Species richness of these taxonomic groups was also determined for 25 European countries based on the Fauna Europaea database. We tested effects of net primary productivity (NPP), annual mean temperature (T), annual rainfall (R) and potential evapotranspiration of the coldest month (PETmin) on species richness and turnover. Spatial environmental heterogeneity within countries was considered by including the ranges of NPP, T, R and PETmin. At the local habitat grain, relationships between species richness and environmental variables differed strongly between taxa and trophic groups. However, species turnover across locations was strongly correlated with differences in T. At the country grain, species richness was significantly correlated with environmental variables from all four theories. In particular, species richness within countries increased strongly with spatial heterogeneity in T. The importance of spatial heterogeneity in T for both species turnover across locations and for species richness within countries suggests that the temperature niche is an important determinant of arthropod diversity. We suggest that, unless climatic heterogeneity is constant across sampling units, coarse-grained studies should always account for environmental heterogeneity as a predictor of arthropod species richness, just as studies with variable area of sampling units routinely consider area.
The contribution of vegetation and landscape configuration for predicting environmental change impacts on Iberian birds
Miguel B. Araújo
- Although climate is known to be one of the key factors determining animal species distributions amongst others, projections of global change impacts on their distributions often rely on bioclimatic envelope models. Vegetation structure and landscape configuration are also key determinants of distributions, but they are rarely considered in such assessments. We explore the consequences of using simulated vegetation structure and composition as well as its associated landscape configuration in models projecting global change effects on Iberian bird species distributions. Both present-day and future distributions were modelled for 168 bird species using two ensemble forecasting methods: Random Forests (RF) and Boosted Regression Trees (BRT). For each species, several models were created, differing in the predictor variables used (climate, vegetation, and landscape configuration). Discrimination ability of each model in the present-day was then tested with four commonly used evaluation methods (AUC, TSS, specificity and sensitivity). The different sets of predictor variables yielded similar spatial patterns for well-modelled species, but the future projections diverged for poorly-modelled species. Models using all predictor variables were not significantly better than models fitted with climate variables alone for ca. 50% of the cases. Moreover, models fitted with climate data were always better than models fitted with landscape configuration variables, and vegetation variables were found to correlate with bird species distributions in 26–40% of the cases with BRT, and in 1–18% of the cases with RF. We conclude that improvements from including vegetation and its landscape configuration variables in comparison with climate only variables might not always be as great as expected for future projections of Iberian bird species.