The influence of habitat integrity and physical-chemical water variables on the structure of aquatic and semi-aquatic Heteroptera

This work aimed to assess the effect of certain physical-chemical variables and the Habitat Integrity Index (HII) have on an aquatic and semi-aquatic heteropteran community. We collected in five streams (from 1st to 4th order) that differed in habitat integrity, in order to test 1) whether heteropteran richness decreases with the Habitat Integrity Index; and 2) whether richness responds to alterations in water physical-chemical variables, since these influence community structure. In each stream, linear transects of 100 m were demarcated. A total of 1425 specimens from 10 families, 30 genera and 67 morphospecies were collected. Species richness was correlated with the Habitat Integrity Index (HII), showing a positive relationship only for Gerromorpha. This may be due to the fact that streams with greater integrity offer nearby marginal vegetation where prey and shelter can be easily found, representing optimal places for oviposition and hunting. Species adapted to such conditions are more sensitive to alterations in the physical structure of rivers. Significant differences in the composition of Heteroptera and studied infra-orders were also observed, which suggests that the anthropic disturbances over these sites have changed these insect communities. Our results indicate that the alteration in riparian areas can lead to significant changes in Heteroptera composition, even though species richness was not affected. The physical-chemical variables showed no influence on the distribution of species. This result suggests that the environment presented insufficient variation that could cause changes in the investigated community, which implies that factors other than those analyzed here may explain such variation. Three species Rhagovelia trailli (White, 1879), Rhagovelia sp. 4 and Tenagobia incerta (Lundblad, 1928) were considered to be indicators of pristine sites. The results indicate that aquatic and semi-aquatic Heteroptera and more specifically the sub-order Gerromorpha can be an important tool to assess environmental habitat integrity and enhance conservation actions of riparian forests.

Aquatic insect; Biomonitoring; Cerrado; Gerromorpha; Nepomorpha

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