Small mountain reservoirs in the Alps : new habitats for alpine freshwater biodiversity?

Fait, Pauline (Observatoire des Sciences de L'Univers (OSU), Institut Pythéas, Marseille, France) ; Demierre, Eliane (School of Engineering, Architecture and Landscape (hepia), HES-SO // University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland) ; Ilg, Christiane (School of Engineering, Architecture and Landscape (hepia), HES-SO // University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland ; VSA, Swiss Water Association, Center of Competence for Surface Water Quality, Dübendorf, Switzerland) ; Oertli, Beat (School of Engineering, Architecture and Landscape (hepia), HES-SO // University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland)

Today, aquatic biodiversity suffers from many pressures linked to human activities, including climate change, which particularly affects alpine areas. Many alpine freshwater species have shifted their geographical distribution to colder areas, but a reduced availability of suitable habitats is also forecasted. New artificial water bodies could provide habitat enhancement opportunities, including small mountain reservoirs built to overcome a lack of snow during winter. To investigate the role of reservoirs as a habitat for freshwater invertebrates, a case study was conducted on eight reservoirs in the Swiss Alps. The study aimed to compare the water quality and freshwater biodiversity of the reservoirs with those of 39 natural and newly excavated ponds. Data were collected on physico‐chemistry, freshwater habitat structure, and aquatic insects (dragonflies and aquatic beetles). The study showed that the mountain reservoirs investigated did not differ from natural ponds in terms of surface area, conductivity, and trophic level. Similarly to natural ponds, reservoirs showed signs of impairment owing to surface run‐off carrying pollutants linked to ski tourism. They presented a low diversity of mesohabitats, and in particular lacked vegetation. Compared with natural ponds, the species richness in reservoirs was lower for dragonflies but not for beetles. At the regional scale, the community from the reservoirs was a subset of the natural ponds community, supporting 38% of the regional species richness for these two insect groups. The results suggest that mountain reservoirs are likely to be important for biodiversity in alpine areas, both as habitats and as stepping stones for species shifting their geographical range. These water bodies can be enhanced further by some nature‐friendly measures to maximize benefits for biodiversity, including margin revegetation or the creation of adjacent ponds. Ecological engineering needs to be innovative and promote freshwater biodiversity in artificial reservoirs.

Article Type:
Ingénierie et Architecture
HEPIA - Genève
inTNE - Institut Terre-Nature-Environnement
14 p.
Published in:
Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems
Numeration (vol. no.):
2020, vol. 30, no. 4
Appears in Collection:

Note: The status of this file is: restricted

 Record created 2020-07-15, last modified 2020-07-17

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