Substratum associations of benthic invertebrates in lowland and mountain streams

M. Schröder, J. Kiesel, A. Schattmann, S.C. Jähnig, A.W. Lorenz, S. Kramm, H.E. Keizer-Vlek, P. Rolauffs, W. Graf, P. Leitner, D. Hering

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The preferences of aquatic invertebrate species for specific substrata at the river bottom have been subject of many studies. Several authors classified the substratum preferences of species or higher taxonomic units. Most of these compilations, however, are based on literature analyses and expert knowledge as opposed to the analysis of original data. To enhance our knowledge of invertebrate substratum preferences, we applied a ‘Multi-level pattern’ analysis based on almost 1000 substrate-specific invertebrate samples. The samples were taken in 18 streams in Germany, the Netherlands and Austria, comprising a total of 40 sampling sites and equally covering lowland and mountain streams. The main objectives of our analysis were (I) to derive substratum preferences of taxa in lowland and mountain streams, (II) to compare the preferences with existing data and (III) to compare species substratum associations between lowland and mountain streams. Of the 290 taxa analyzed, 188 were associated significantly to specific substrata. Twenty-five taxa in lowland streams and 51 taxa in mountain streams prefer one or two substratum types (of nine substratum types considered in total). In contrast, 112 species (mountain streams n = 84, lowland streams n = 28) are associated significantly with a broader range of substrata. We compared the classifications derived from our data analysis with those provided in the database ( Our results support the existing classifications of substratum preferences in most cases (70%). For 25 species, substratum preferences for both lowland and mountain streams were derived, many of them indicating different substratum associations in the two stream groups. As substratum preferences differed between closely related species, preferences should always be given at the species level as opposed to coarser taxonomic units
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)178-189
JournalEcological Indicators
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • macroinvertebrate assemblages
  • community structure
  • species assemblages
  • habitat type
  • bioassessment
  • rivers
  • reach
  • microdistribution
  • quality
  • sites

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    Schröder, M., Kiesel, J., Schattmann, A., Jähnig, S. C., Lorenz, A. W., Kramm, S., Keizer-Vlek, H. E., Rolauffs, P., Graf, W., Leitner, P., & Hering, D. (2013). Substratum associations of benthic invertebrates in lowland and mountain streams. Ecological Indicators, 30, 178-189.