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Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2011 Apr;60(3):426-36. doi: 10.1007/s00244-010-9557-7. Epub 2010 Jun 20.

Impact of metals on macroinvertebrate assemblages in the Forgotten Stretch of the Rio Grande.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX, USA.

Abstract

The objective of this study was to examine how changes in the benthic macroinvertebrate community structure and a variety of abiotic variables, such as conductivity and sediment metal concentrations, are modified along the Forgotten River stretch of the Rio Grande. This stretch receives industrial effluent, raw sewage, and agricultural return flow from the El Paso (TX, USA)-Ciudad Juárez (CHI, Mexico) metroplex and then flows relatively undisturbed for 320 km before its next significant input. The high degree of use, followed by the 320-km undisturbed stretch, makes the Forgotten River a unique study site to examine downstream attenuation of contaminants and other abiotic variables to determine their potential effects on macroinvertebrates. Five different sites along the Forgotten Stretch were sampled over a 2-year period. Metal concentrations were low throughout the stretch and were predominantly correlated to percent sediment organic matter rather than explained spatially. Several sensitive invertebrate species, such as Leptophlebiidae, increased in relative abundance downstream, whereas the percentage of tolerant invertebrates decreased. Nonmetric multidimensional scaling separated the macroinvertebrate communities upstream from those downstream, with the more sensitive species being found predominantly downstream and more tolerant taxa associated upstream. Additionally, there was a distinct seasonal gradient to the community. The most important drivers of the community assemblage appear to be distance downstream and seasonality, as well as water conductivity and concentrations of sediment cadmium, which was the only metal that exceeded protective criteria. This study did not provide evidence of the downstream attenuation of heavy metals in the sediments in the Forgotten Stretch; however, downstream changes in macroinvertebrates toward more sensitive taxa suggests that other, unmeasured contaminants might be affecting biological communities in this isolated stretch of an international waterway.

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

PMID:
20563799
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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