Longitudinal distribution of macroinvertebrates in snowmelt streams in northeast Greenland: understanding biophysical controls

C. L. Docherty*, D. M. Hannah, T. Riis, S. Rosenhøj Leth, A. M. Milner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
162 Downloads (Pure)


In a changing climate, Arctic streams are expected to show more influence from snowmelt, rainfall and groundwater, and less domination from glacial meltwater sources. Snowmelt streams are characteristic features of Arctic ecosystems, yet our current understanding of longitudinal patterns in benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages in these systems is limited when compared to glacier-fed systems. This study characterised longitudinal patterns of macroinvertebrate communities in snowmelt streams in northeast Greenland to provide novel insights into Arctic stream communities as dominant water sources shift with climate change. Benthic macroinvertebrates and environmental variables were sampled at three sites along five streams. Taxa diversity, evenness and abundance were expected to increase with distance from the stream source due to enhanced channel stability and warmer water temperature. This expectation for diversity and evenness was found in two streams, but abundance was up to ten times higher at the upstream sites compared to downstream, where biofilm biomass and ionic load were also highest. Here communities were largely dominated by the genus Eukiefferiella (Chironomidae). In the other three streams, no clear pattern in longitudinal macroinvertebrate community composition was evident due to low channel stability along the entire stream length. This study highlights the considerable variation in macroinvertebrate zonal distribution between snowmelt streams in northeast Greenland. A change towards more snowmelt-dominated streams in the Arctic could lead to shifts in the longitudinal organisation of macroinvertebrate community assemblages and the dominant species as a function of channel stability characteristics.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalPolar Biology
Early online date20 Oct 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Oct 2017


  • Arctic
  • Chironomidae
  • Macroinvertebrates
  • Rivers
  • Zackenberg

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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