Invertebrate communities and hydrological variation in Cairngorm mountain streams

C. N. Gibbins, C. F. Dilks, R. Malcolm, C. Soulsby, S. Juggins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Macroinvertebrates, discharge and 16 chemical variables were monitored over a 14-year period in four small streams (catchment area <15 km(2)) in the Cairngorm mountains, Scotland. Canonical Correspondence Analysis (CCA) was used to assess relationships between invertebrates and environmental conditions on the day of sampling, average conditions over the preceding 1, 2 and 3-month periods and indices of hydrological and hydrochemical variation over preceding monthly intervals.

CCA detected subtle inter-catchment differences in invertebrate community structure, with catchments separated along axes representing streamwater calcium, alkalinity and total organic carbon concentrations. Invertebrate communities varied seasonally, with spring, summer and autumn samples separated along CCA axes representing temperature, orthosilicate and discharge. Hydrochemically, spring was the most variable season, characterised by increased frequency of both high and low flow events and acid, snowmelt episodes. In two of the streams, invertebrate community structure varied more in spring than in other seasons.

CCA ordinations using indices of hydrological and hydrochemical variation over preceding time periods were more successful (increased eigenvalues) at explaining temporal variation in invertebrate community structure than those using conditions on the day of sampling or average conditions over preceding time periods. For one of the catchments, 40% of the seasonal and between-year variation over the 14-year period could be explained by the frequency of high and low flow events, maximum and minimum water temperatures and acid episodes in the two months prior to the invertebrate samples being collected. The single most important flow parameter (longest CCA arrow) was the frequency of high flow events greater than three times the median discharge.

No significant trends in invertebrate community composition were found in any of the streams over the 14-year period so, despite the apparent importance of hydrological and hydrochemical variation, communities appeared stable over the long-term.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-219
Number of pages14
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2001


  • invertebrate communities
  • ordination
  • flow variation
  • Cairngorm mountains
  • canonical correspondence-analysis
  • New-Zealand streams
  • macroinvertebrate communities
  • habitat templet
  • species traits
  • acid waters
  • disturbance
  • catchment
  • Scotland
  • hydrogeochemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Invertebrate communities and hydrological variation in Cairngorm mountain streams'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this