The agricultural zone of southwestern Australia is an extensively modified landscape. Ninety percent of the perennial native vegetation has been cleared and replaced by annual cereal crops and pasture. Consequently, groundwater has risen and much of the region is affected by dryland salinity. River geomorphology and water quality have been severely impacted by land clearing, anthropogenic patterns of land use, and secondary salinization. The objectives of this study were to determine patterns of distribution of aquatic macroinvertebrates in the region, and to identify environmental variables influencing these patterns. Aquatic macroinvertebrates were sampled at 176 river sites during spring 1997 and a range of environmental data were collected at each site. Eighty-one families were collected, with the fauna being dominated by insects. At the family level, macroinvertebrate communities were homogeneous and depauperate, and consisted of families that tolerated a broad range of environmental conditions. The fauna was particularly resilient to high salinities, with some families tolerating salinities orders of magnitude greater than previously reported for lotic waters. The most significant environmental factors influencing the distribution of aquatic invertebrates were rainfall, salinity, land use, and instream habitat.
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