Diversity and distribution of Tubificidae, Naididae, and Lumbriculidae (Annelida: Oligochaeta) in the Netherlands: an evaluation of twenty years of monitoring data

R.C. Nijboer, M.J. Wetzel, P.F.M. Verdonschot

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Data from 24 water management districts and the rivers Rhine and Meuse in the Netherlands were used to study geographical distribution, relative occurrence, and environmental requirements of 76 aquatic oligochaetes (families Tubificidae, Naididae, and Lumbriculidae) (Annelida, Clitellata). Approximately 50% of the 76 species that occur in the Netherlands are uncommon, rare, or very rare. The other half of the species are common, very common or abundant. The abundant species are: Stylaria lacustris, Ophidonais serpentina, Limnodrilus claparedeianus, Limnodrilus hoffmeisteri, and Lumbriculus variegatus.With the exception of several brackish water species (those restricted in distribution to water management districts close to the sea that are influenced by salt water influx) and specific runningwater species (restricted mainly to the eastern part of the Netherlands), most of the species occurred throughout the whole Netherlands. The species distribution was related to environmental variables using ordination. In general, species distribution was correlated with either large waters with high chloride and phosphorus concentrations and a high hydrogen ion concentration (as pH), or with small forested (running) waters in more natural (undeveloped) areas that occasionally become intermittent. Vegetation cover was positively correlated with several swimming species in the family Naididae. While the distribution of aquatic oligochaetes in some families occurring in the Netherlands is known to some extent, the occurrence and distribution of rare and small taxa, particularly those that are difficult to identify taxonomically, is virtually unknown. Some of the rare oligochaete taxa, especially those associated with unique habitats, have received only cursory attention. Also in the data studied, the observations of the more rare species were too few to draw conclusions. To improve our knowledge of oligochaete distribution in the Netherlands, additional research should focus on rare species associated with special habitats and water types (natural areas) and those taxa in poorly known families. The standardisation of sampling and processing methodologies, particularly the use of nets and sieves with fine-meshed screening, will ensure the collection of the smaller species of oligochaetes. Subsequently, oligochaetes should be identified to species level by experienced taxonomists trained in oligochaete identification. Finally, many aquatic oligochaete species are identifiable only when sexually mature and therefore the time of year in which samples are collected is critical to the accurate representation of true oligochaete diversity at any given site. For analysing the relation between species and environmental variables the best option is to use composite data from spring and autumn.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-141
Issue number1/3
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • fauna
  • abundance
  • streams
  • eutrophication
  • pollution
  • patterns
  • dynamics
  • waters
  • area


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