Stream integrity in oceanic islands – a functional approach using organic matter decomposition
- NameAna Balibrea Escobar
- Entity hostCIBIO, Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources, InBIO Associate Laboratory
BIOPOLIS Program in Genomics, Biodiversity and Land Planning
UNESCO Chair-Land Within Sea: Biodiversity & Sustainability in Atlantic Islands, University of the Azores
- University awarding the degreeUniversity of the Azores
Human activities and changes in land use potentially impact stream ecosystems, but official evaluations of stream ecological integrity rely only on the assessment of structural indicators, while functional indicators are not considered. This is despite the recognition by the WFD that “ecological status is an expression of the quality of the structure and functioning of aquatic ecosystems”, and that ecosystem functioning is tightly related with ecosystem services. Decomposition of organic matter has been proposed as a suitable functional indicator of stream functional integrity, and multiple European projects have been dedicated to this topic. Oceanic islands are far less economically developed than mainland member states as a direct result of their remoteness, isolation and insular nature. Moreover, investigation on oceanic islands is scarce, but needed given that islands differ from mainland in multiple factors that can affect the litter decomposition, such as low diversity of invertebrates and naturally challenging water characteristics (e.g. high heavy metal concentrations).
The main goal of this project is to assess the use of organic matter decomposition as a potential indicator of stream ecosystem functioning in the Azores archipelago. The specific objectives of this project are:
- to evaluate organic matter decomposition as a possible indicator of stream ecosystem functioning and to compare its performance with that of structural indicators in streams included in the regional bioassessment program;
- to test the use of organic matter decomposition as an indicator in streams under riparian forest modifications for agricultural and livestock uses in comparison with non-impacted streams;
- to assess organic matter decomposition in streams naturally enriched with heavy metals from volcanic activity but not affected by human activities to establish reference conditions for this particular stream type; and
- test the effects of heavy metals concentrations on litter decomposition and on biological communities associated to this process.