1. Using a replicated survey design at the catchment scale, we compared the composition and diversity of diatom communities in three stream groups in the Middle Hills of Nepal: semi‐natural reference (Arun Valley), enriched by agricultural runoff (Likhu Khola) and grossly polluted by sewage (Kathmandu Valley). We sampled riffles at all sites; in the Kathmandu Valley and Likhu Khola we also sampled diatoms in pools and on vegetation. 2. Species richness and diversity H′ were significantly higher in agricultural streams than in either organically polluted streams or references. Community composition, as shown by principal components analysis, varied significantly between all three stream types due to differences in the abundances of species characteristic of organic enrichment (Kathmandu Valley), moderate enrichment (Likhu Khola) or undisturbed hillstreams (Arun Valley). 3. Few species varied in relative abundance between pools, riffles and vegetation so that variations in community composition and diversity were stronger between stream groups than between habitats. Samples from any one habitat produced only 75.7% (± 8.6 SD) of the species from three habitats, so that surveys aimed at recording biodiversity may need more comprehensive habitat coverage than surveys for biomonitoring. 4. We conclude that diatom communities can indicate different sources of pollution in Nepalese streams, and advocate further studies to develop this indicator potential over a wider area of the Himalaya. Comparisons between replicate groups of streams selected a priori helped to clarify effects which were sometimes obscured by other survey designs.
Freshwater Biology – Wiley
Published: Oct 1, 1996
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