Climatic and catchment-scale predictors of chinese stream insect richness differ between taxonomic groups


Little work has been done on large-scale patterns of stream insect richness in China. We explored the influence of climatic and catchment-scale factors on stream insect (Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, Trichoptera; EPT) richness across mid-latitude China. We assessed the predictive ability of climatic, catchment land cover and physical structure variables on genus richness of EPT, both individually and combined, in 80 mid-latitude Chinese streams, spanning a 3899-m altitudinal gradient. We performed analyses using boosted regression trees and explored the nature of their influence on richness patterns. The relative importance of climate, land cover, and physical factors on stream insect richness varied considerably between the three orders, and while important for Ephemeroptera and Plecoptera, latitude did not improve model fit for any of the groups. EPT richness was linked with areas comprising high forest cover, elevation and slope, large catchments and low temperatures. Ephemeroptera favoured areas with high forest cover, medium-to-large catchment sizes, high temperature seasonality, and low potential evapotranspiration. Plecoptera richness was linked with low temperature seasonality and annual mean, and high slope, elevation and warm-season rainfall. Finally, Trichoptera favoured high elevation areas, with high forest cover, and low mean annual temperature, seasonality and aridity. Our findings highlight the variable role that catchment land cover, physical properties and climatic influences have on stream insect richness. This is one of the first studies of its kind in Chinese streams, thus we set the scene for more in-depth assessments of stream insect richness across broader spatial scales in China, but stress the importance of improving data availability and consistency through time.

Jonathan D. Tonkin
Senior Lecturer & Rutherford Discovery Fellow