Macroinvertebrate community composition and ecosystem health in response to salinity and environmental change in the Draa River basin, Morocco

  • Northwest Africa is predicted to undergo a climatic shift from a temperate to an arid climate resulting in increased aridity, water salinity, and river intermittency. These changes have the potential to impact freshwater communities, ecosystem functioning, and related ecosystem services. However, there is still limited data on the impact of climate change and salinity on river ecosystems and the people depending on it, particularly in understudied regions such as Northwest Africa. In this dissertation, I focus on the Draa River basin in southern Morocco to assess the primary factors shaping and altering macroinvertebrate communities. A particular focus is placed on the impacts of salt on the ecosystem and the consequences for human well-being. We conducted a meta-analysis covering 195 sites in Northwest Africa to examine the responses of insect communities and their trait profiles to climate change and anthropogenically induced stressors. To exclude large-scale geographic patterns such as variations in climate conditions we conducted a confluence-based study focusing on tributaries and their joint downstream sections near three confluences in the Draa River basin. Additionally, we investigated the water and biological quality of 17 further sites, aiming to explore the relationship between human well-being and the ecosystem. Our approach involved conducting water measurements, biological monitoring, and household surveys to create water, biological, and human satisfaction indices. Our findings revealed that insect family richness in arid sites of Northwest Africa was, on average, 37 % lower than in temperate sites. Among the strongest factors contributing to reduced richness and low biological quality were low flow and high water salinity. Based on the results of the confluence study only around five taxa comprised over 90 % of specimens per site, with a higher proportion of salt-tolerant generalist species in saline sites. Resistance and resilience traits such as small body size, aerial dispersal, and air breathing were found to promote survival in arid and saline sites. However, low γ-diversity in the basin caused minimal differences in macroinvertebrate community composition suggesting that the community was generally adapted to the arid climate. We observed positive associations between river water quality and biological quality indices. However, no significant associations were found between these indices and human satisfaction. Human satisfaction was particularly low in the Middle Draa, where 89 % of respondents reported emotional distress due to water salinity and scarcity. Inhabitants in areas characterized by higher levels of water salinity and scarcity generally rated drinking and irrigation water quality lower. Considering that large parts of Northwest Africa will become arid by the end of the century, we can expect a loss of macroinvertebrate diversity affecting the entire ecosystem, which might potentially affect human well-being negatively. To protect the integrity of the ecosystem in the face of ongoing climate change, it is crucial to limit anthropogenic stressors such as secondary salinization and the pressures on water resources. Protecting both more and less saline rivers, preserving natural water flow, and maintaining connectivity between habitats will allow to maintain the Draa River biodiversity, ensure ecosystem functioning, and benefit inhabitants through ecosystem services. Future policies and action plans should consider the interdependence between ecosystems and human inhabitants to enhance overall well-being.

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Author:Nils KaczmarekORCiD
Advisor:Elisabeth Berger, Ralf B. Schäfer
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Cumulative document:Yes
Language of publication:English
Date of Publication (online):2023/11/02
Date of first Publication:2023/11/02
Publishing Institution:Rheinland-Pfälzische Technische Universität Kaiserslautern-Landau
Granting Institution:Rheinland-Pfälzische Technische Universität Kaiserslautern-Landau
Acceptance Date of the Thesis:2023/09/04
Date of the Publication (Server):2023/11/02
Page Number:X, 124 Seiten
Kumulative Dissertation
Faculties / Organisational entities:Landau - Fachbereich Natur- und Umweltwissenschaften
DDC-Cassification:5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 500 Naturwissenschaften
MSC-Classification (mathematics):92-XX BIOLOGY AND OTHER NATURAL SCIENCES
Licence (German):Creative Commons 4.0 - Namensnennung, nicht kommerziell, keine Bearbeitung (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)