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Nutrient enrichment effects are conditional on upstream nutrient concentrations: Implications for bioassessment in multi-use catchments.


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Pearce, Nolan J. T.; Lavoie, Isabelle ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2918-6297; Thomas, Kathryn E.; Chambers, Patricia A. et Yates, Adam G. (2021). Nutrient enrichment effects are conditional on upstream nutrient concentrations: Implications for bioassessment in multi-use catchments. Ecological Indicators , vol. 124 . p. 107440. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2021.107440.

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Human impacts on stream ecosystems are expected to intensify with population growth and climate change. Decisive information on how stream communities respond to cumulative human impacts is therefore integral for protecting streams draining multi-use catchments. To determine cumulative influences of nutrient enrichment and assess more nuanced approaches for the evaluation of human impacts, we present results from one factorial and two gradient assessment designs applied to benthic algae and macroinvertebrate data from 14 mid-order streams in southern Ontario, Canada with pre-existing human impacts (i.e., sewage effluent and agriculture). We found that among stream variability in ecological indicators measured downstream of sewage effluent outfalls confounded our generalized factorial assessment and provided inconclusive information on a known human impact. Despite our gradient assessment also not having strong statistical support, accounting for the extent of nutrient enrichment associated with differences in sewage effluent and agricultural inputs revealed that larger longitudinal changes in stream communities were associated with increased nutrient enrichment. However, re-weighting our nutrient enrichment gradient based on upstream nutrient concentrations to account for nonlinearities in the response of stream communities to nutrient enrichment produced more robust assessment results that were consistent with predicted effects of nutrients on stream ecosystems. Thus, while our factorial assessment suggests that the communities are resistant to nutrients from cumulative human impacts, our targeted gradient assessment demonstrates that the effects of nutrient enrichment are highly conditional on upstream ecosystem conditions. Future assessments may need to go beyond traditional approaches (i.e., impact presence/absence) and more explicitly consider the environmental stressors and their associated complexities related to the impact under investigation.

Type de document: Article
Mots-clés libres: diatoms; macroinvertebrates; nitrogen; phosphorus; agriculture; sewage; wastewater
Centre: Centre Eau Terre Environnement
Date de dépôt: 24 févr. 2021 16:56
Dernière modification: 05 févr. 2023 05:00
URI: https://espace.inrs.ca/id/eprint/11354

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