Drought leads to a loss of longitudinal and lateral hydrologic connectivity, which causes direct or indirect changes in stream ecosystem properties. Changes in macrohabitat availability from a riffle–pool sequence to isolated pools are among the most conspicuous consequences of connectivity loss. Macroinvertebrate assemblages were compared among 3 distinct stream macrohabitats (riffles [R], pools connected to riffles [Pc], disconnected pools [Pd]) of 19 Mediterranean-climate sites in northern California to examine the influence of loss of habitat resulting from drought disturbance. At the time of sampling, 10 sites were perennial and included R and Pc macrohabitats, whereas 9 sites were intermittent and included only Pd macrohabitats. Taxa richness was more variable in Pd, and taxa richness was significantly lower in Pd than in Pc but not R. These results suggested a decline in richness between Pc and Pd that might be associated with loss of connectivity. Lower Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera (EPT) richness relative to Odonata, Coleoptera, and Heteroptera (OCH) richness was observed for Pd than R and Pc macrohabitats. Family composition was more similar between R and Pc than between R or Pc and Pd macrohabitats. This similarity may be associated with greater connectivity between R and Pc macrohabitats. Correspondence analysis indicated that macroinvertebrate composition changed along a gradient from R to Pc and Pd that was related to a perennial–intermittent gradient across sites. High variability among macroinvertebrate assemblages in Pd could have been related to variability in the duration of intermittency. In cluster analysis, macroinvertebrate assemblages were grouped by macrohabitat first and then by site, suggesting that the macrohabitat filter had a greater influence on macroinvertebrate assemblages than did local site characteristics. Few taxa were found exclusively in Pc, and this macrohabitat shared numerous taxa with R and Pd, indicating that Pc may act as a bridge between R and Pd during drought. Drought is regarded as a ramp disturbance, but our results suggest that the response of macroinvertebrate assemblages to the loss of hydrological connectivity among macrohabitats is gradual, at least in Mediterranean-climate streams where drying is gradual. However, the changes may be more dramatic in arid and semiarid streams or in Mediterranean-climate streams if drying is rapid.
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Vol. 25 • No. 1