Land use effects on water quality, habitat, and macroinvertebrate and diatom communities in African highland streams

Tatenda Dalu, Tongayi Mwedzi, Ryan J. Wasserman, Takudzwa C. Madzivanzira, Tamuka Nhiwatiwa, Ross N. Cuthbert

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12 Citations (Scopus)
53 Downloads (Pure)


Anthropogenic activities have increasingly subjected freshwater ecosystems globally to various pressures. Increasing land use activities have been highly linked to deteriorating freshwater ecosystems and dwindling biodiversity. For sound management and conservation policies to be implemented, relations between land use, environmental, and biotic components need to be widely documented. To evaluate the impacts of land use on biotic components, this study analyzed the diatom and macroinvertebrate community composition of the Eastern Highlands (Zimbabwe) streams to assess the main spatial diatom and macroinvertebrate community variances and how environmental variables and spatial factors influence community composition. Diatom and macroinvertebrate sampling was done in 16 streams in protected areas (national parks) and impacted sites (timber plantation and communal areas). Water (pH, phosphorus, and ammonium) and sediment (nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and zinc) and habitat (substrate embeddedness, and habitat) variables differed significantly with land use. Principal Component Analysis (PCA) showed that the protected area had the best water quality, particularly marked by high pH levels and low phosphorus concentrations among environment types. Heavy metals were high in the communal areas although mercury was higher in the national park. Significant differences were observed in diatom metrics, specifically dominance and evenness, with no significant differences being observed in macroinvertebrate metrics across land uses. Diatoms differed in terms of composition in response to land use. Results provide an important scientific reference for land use optimization and guidance for the formulation of policies to protect freshwater resources in African Highland streams. Management and conservation initiatives in the Eastern Highlands are further recommended as this study detected high levels of mercury in the protected area, implying high levels of illegal mining.
Original languageEnglish
Article number157346
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date13 Jul 2022
Publication statusEarly online date - 13 Jul 2022


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