Benthic Biomonitoring in Arctic Tundra Streams: A Community-Based Approach in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada
Recent residential, commercial, and industrial development in the catchments of several Arctic streams has heightened the need to assess these freshwater systems accurately. It was imperative to develop methods that would be both effective at judging ecological condition of tundra streams and suitable for use by local groups. An investigation of two streams influenced by urbanization in Iqaluit, Nunavut, was carried out between July and August each year in 2007 – 09. Simple summary metrics (e.g., Shannon Index) and multivariate analysis (DCA, RD A) both demonstrated biological impairment in the benthic community at site locations downstream of urbanized portions of a local stream. This impairment was characterized by a loss of diversity and a dramatic shift of the benthic community to one dominated by chironomids from the subfamily Orthocladiinae. Elevated levels of total nitrogen (TN) and total phosphorus (TP) and several metals (Zn, Sr, Rb, Al, Co, Fe) were also found to be significantly related to benthic assemblages within these disturbed areas. This investigation also addressed taxonomic sufficiency, indicating that while family-level taxonomic identifications were sensitive enough to differentiate between pristine and impacted stream sites, a more precise taxonomic identification of the dominant benthos taxa (Insecta: Diptera: Chironomidae) to sub-family/tribe level identified a significant shift towards pollution-tolerant taxa. This higher taxonomic resolution will allow for the adaptation of protocols and the use of simple summary metrics to be effective for a community-based biomonitoring program in Arctic tundra streams.