Longitudinal trends in macroinvertebrate functional feeding groups in a high-altitude tropical stream (a case study of Gura River)


  • Joshua Benjamin Egerton University


Functional feeding groups (FFGs), Gura River, Scrapers, Shredders, Predators


Functional feeding groups (FFGs) classification of aquatic macroinvertebrates is an important tool that enhance the knowledge of trophic dynamics in tropical streams by assigning the benthic community into trophic guilds.

The current study aimed at determining the longitudinal trends in macroinvertebrate functional feeding groups in Gura River. Macroinvertebrates were collected between November and December 2018 in seven sites along the Gura River from an altitude of 2977 to 1547 m a.s.l. At the same time, selected physical chemical variable were measured in situ at every site. Dissolved oxygen concentration (mgL-1), water temperature (oC), electrical conductivity (µScm-1), pH and turbidity (NTU) had a significant difference among the sites (p <0.05). Most of the nitrates and phosphate nutrients had a significant difference among sampled sites (p <0.05) except NO2-N as demonstrated by analysis of variance (one-way ANOVA, F (6,14) = 2, p=0.085).

A total of 4016 macroinvertebrates specimen were collected belonging to 9 orders and 28 families and assigned into 5 respective FFGs. Overall, Scrapers, dominated by Heptageniidae (Afronurus) had the high relative proportion of FFGs in all the sites with a proportion of 42%. Shredders and Predators were the least represented functional feeding groups with proportions of 6% and 3% respectively. This study is crucial in the Gura River because FFGs can be used as an indicator of aquatic ecosystems change in case there is alteration of ecosystem function due to environmental variables.


Allan, J.D. and Castillo, M.M. (2007). Stream Ecology. Structure and Function of Running Waters. Springer, Cham 452pp.

APHA (American Public Health Association). (2004). Standard method for the examination of water and wastewater, 21st edition. America Water Works Association and Water Control Federation. Washington DC.

Aquem Consortium. 2002. The AQEM sampling method to be applied in STAR. Internet-URL: Http://Www. Eu-Star. at. Link: Protocols, (February), 1–17.

Baxter, C. V., Fausch, K. D. and Saunders, W. C. (2005). Tangled webs?: reciprocal flows of invertebrate prey link streams and riparian zones. Freshwater biology,50: 201–220.

Camacho, R., Boyero, L., Cornejo, A., Ibáñez, A. and Pearson, R. G. (2009). Local variation in shredder numbers can explain their oversight in tropical streams. Biotropica 4:625–632.

Cummins, K. W. (1993). Invertebrates. In Calow, P. & G. E. Petts (eds), The Rivers Handbook. Blackwell Scientific, Oxford: 234–250.

Dobson M., Mathooko J.M., Magana A. and Ndegwa F.K. (2002). Detritivores in Kenyan highland streams: more evidence for the paucity of shredders in the tropics? Freshwater Biology, 47:909-919.

Dudgeon, D. (2010). Prospects for sustaining freshwater biodiversity in the 21st century: linking ecosystem structure and function. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 2, 422–430.

FAO.(2010). Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Global Forest Resources Assessment Main Report. FAO Forestry Paper 163. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.

Fernandes, A.C.P., Sanches Fernandes, L.F., Moura, J.P., Cortes, R.M.V. and Pacheco, F.A.L. (2019). A structural equation model to predict macroinvertebrate-based ecological status in catchments influenced by anthropogenic pressures. Sci. Total Environ. 681, 242–257.

Ferreira, V.G., Boyero, L., Calvo, C., Corrêa, F.D., Figueroa, R.R., Gonçalves, J.F., Goyenola, G., Graça, M.A., Hepp, L.U., Kariuki, S.M., López-Rodríguez, A., Mazzeo, N., M’Erimba, C., Monroy, S., Peil, A., Pozo, J., Rezende, R.D. and Teixeira-de-Mello, F. (2018). A Global Assessment of the Effects of Eucalyptus Plantations on Stream Ecosystem Functioning. Ecosystems, 1-14.

Gerber, A. and Gabriel M.J.M. (2002). Aquatic Invertebrates of South African Rivers Field Guide, Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, Resource Quality Services.

Gonçalves, J. F., Graça, M. A. F. and Callisto, M. (2006). Leaf litter breakdown in 3 streams in temperate, Mediterranean, and tropical Cerrado climates. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 24:344–355.

Irons, J. G., Oswood, M. W., Stout, R. J. and Pringle, C. M. (1994), Latitudinal patterns in leaf litter breakdown: is temperature really important? Freshwater Biology, 32: 401-411.

Li, H., You, S., Zhang, H., Zheng, W. and Zou, L. (2018). Investigating the environmental quality deterioration and human health hazard caused by heating emissions. Sci Total Environ. 628, 1209–1222.

Masese, F. O., Raburu, P.O. and Muchiri, M. (2009b). A preliminary benthic macroinvertebrate index of biotic integrity (B-IBI) for monitoring the Moiben River, Lake Victoria Basin, Kenya. African Journal of Aquatic Science 34:1–14.

Merrit, R.W., Cummins, K.W. and Berg, M.B. (2008). An Introduction to Aquatic Insects of North America. 4th Edition, Kendall Hunt Publishers, Dubuque.

Merritt, R. W. and Cummins K. W. (2006). Trophic relationships of macroinvertebrates. Pages 585–610 in F. R. Hauer and G. A. Lamberti (editors). Methods in stream ecology. 2nd edition. Academic Press, San Diego, California.

Merritt, R. W., Cummins, K. W., Berg, M. B., Novak, J. A., Higgins, M. J., Wessell, K. J. and Lessard, J. L. (2002). Development and application of a macroinvertebrate functional-group approach to the bioassessment of remnant river oxbows in southwest Florida. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 21:290–310.

Minshall, G.W., Petersen, R.C., Bott, T.L., Cushing, C.E., Cummins, K.W., Vannote, R.L.and Sedell, J.R. (1992). Stream ecosystem dynamics of the Salmon River, Idaho: an 8th-order system. Journal of the North American Benthological Society. 11:111–137.

Ormerod, S., Dobson, M., Hildrew, A. and Townsend, C.R. (2010). Multiple stressors in freshwater ecosystems. Freshwater Biology, 55: 1-4.

Palmer, C., O’Keeffe, J. and Palmer A.(1993b). Macroinvertebrate functional feeding groups in the middle and lower reaches of the Buffalo River Eastern Cape, South Africa. II. Functional morphology and behaviour. Freshwater Biology. 29: 455–462.

Rosenberg, D.M., and Resh, V.H.(1993). Freshwater Biomonitoring and Benthic Macroinvertebrates. Chapman and Hall, New York.

Statzner, B., Dolédec, S., and Hugueny, B. (2004). Biological trait composition of European stream invertebrate communities: assessing the effects of various trait filter types. Ecography, 27: 470–488.

Vannote, R. L., Minshall, G. W., Cummins, K. W., Sedell, J. R., & Cushing C. E. (1980). The river continuum concept. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 37, 130-137.

Wallace, J. B., Webster, J. R., and Webster, W.(1996). The role of macroinvertebrates in stream ecosystem. Annual Review of Entomology 41, 115–139.

Wright, K.K., and Li J.L. (2002). From continua to patches: examining stream community structure over large environmental gradients Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 59: 1404–1417.




How to Cite

Benjamin, J. (2021). Longitudinal trends in macroinvertebrate functional feeding groups in a high-altitude tropical stream (a case study of Gura River). Egerton Journal of Science and Technology, 18, 1–18. Retrieved from https://eujournals.egerton.ac.ke/index.php/EJ/article/view/58