Responses of macroinvertebrate community metrics to urban pollution in semi-arid catchments around the city of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
River health monitoring is becoming increasingly important because of the anthropogenic activities that continue to impact on water quality and biodiversity of aquatic systems. This study aimed at identifying and evaluating macroinvertebrate community-based metrics that best respond to degradation due to urban pollution in riverine systems of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Data (physicochemical variables and macroinvertebrate specimens) were collected from 17 sites over 3 seasons. The sites were selected across an impairment gradient comprising less impacted, moderately impacted and heavily impacted sites. Heavily impacted sites had the highest levels of total dissolved solids, conductivity, salinity, turbidity, total phosphates, total nitrogen, chemical oxygen demand and sedimentary zinc. Dissolved oxygen was significantly highest in less impacted sites. Sensitivity of 24 macroinvertebrate metrics to this impairment gradient were assessed. A total of 5 metrics were identified as sensitive to modifications in water quality due to urban pollution. These metrics were taxon richness, South African Scoring System (SASS5) score, average score per taxon (ASPT), percentage collectors and percentage scrapers. The selected metrics will be useful for the monitoring and assessment of the studied riverine systems and can be further integrated into one multimetric index that combines a range of indices and allows the integration of ecological information for better management of aquatic ecosystems in this region.
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