Macroinvertebrates as unreliable indicators of human disturbance in temporary depression wetlands of the south-western Cape, South Africa

Matthew S. Bird, Musa C. Mlambo, Jenny A. Day

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Macroinvertebrates have a successful history of use as indicators of human impact in lotic environments. More recently, macroinvertebrate indices have been recommended for use in certain wetland types. Yet some authors do not recommend macroinvertebrates indices of wetland condition in areas with pronounced natural environmental heterogeneity. Our study provides a preliminary assessment of the feasibility of using macroinvertebrates for bioassessment of temporary isolated depression wetlands in the south-western Cape region of South Africa. We expected natural environmental heterogeneity among wetlands to exert a stronger influence on macroinvertebrates than human disturbance factors. Partitioning of the variation in macroinvertebrate assemblage composition that could be attributed to human disturbance factors (within and adjacent to wetlands), environmental variables and spatio-temporal factors indicated that environmental and spatio-temporal factors independent of human disturbances largely determined assemblage composition, whilst human disturbance played a relatively minor role. Linear regressions of taxon richness/diversity measures, individual families and a collation of metrics against measures of habitat transformation around wetlands and scores from a rapid assessment index of human disturbance revealed poor relationships. The univariate and multivariate patterns observed in this study do not lend themselves to the creation of a macroinvertebrate index of human disturbance for temporary wetlands in the region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-37
Number of pages19
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Bioassessment
  • Human disturbance
  • Macroinvertebrates
  • Temporary wetlands

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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