›› 2013, Vol. 23 ›› Issue (5): 871-882.doi: 10.1007/s11442-013-1050-6

• Special Research on Sanjiangyuan • Previous Articles     Next Articles

An exploratory analysis of benthic macroinvertebrates as indicators of the ecological status of the Upper Yellow and Yangtze Rivers

PAN Baozhu1, WANG Zhaoyin2, LI Zhiwei2, YU Guo-an3, XU Mengzhen2, ZHAO Na2, Gary BRIERLEY4   

  1. 1. Changjiang River Scientific Research Institute, Wuhan 430010, China;
    2. State Key Laboratory of Hydroscience and Engineering, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China;
    3. Key Laboratory of Water Cycle and Related Land Surface Processes, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China;
    4. School of Environment, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand
  • Received:2012-05-30 Revised:2013-03-28 Online:2013-10-15 Published:2013-10-15
  • Contact: Wang Zhaoyin (1951-), Professor, E-mail: zywang@tsinghua.edu.cn E-mail:zywang@tsinghua.edu.cn
  • About author:Pan Baozhu (1979-), Ph.D, specialized in freshwater ecology. E-mail: zhuzipan@163.com
  • Supported by:

    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.51209010; No.41001008; International Science & Technology Cooperation Program of China, No.2011DFA20820; 2011DFG93160; Fund from Tsinghua University, No.20121080027


This study presents findings of the first systematic analysis of aquatic biotic assemblages in the source region of the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers. It provides an initial basis with which to select representative organisms as indicators to assess the aquatic ecological status of rivers in this region. Macroinvertebrates are considered to be good indicators of long-term environmental changes due to their restricted range and persistence over time. Field investigations of macroinvertebrates were conducted in August 2009 in the source region of the Yellow River, and in July 2010 in the source region of the Yangtze River. Altogether 68 taxa of macroinvertebrates belonging to 29 families and 59 genera were identified. Among them were 8 annelids, 5 mollusks, 54 arthropods and 1 other animal. In the source region of the Yellow River, taxa number, density and biomass of macroinvertebrates were 50, 329 individuals m-2 and 0.3966 g dry weight m-2, respectively. Equivalent figures for the source region of the Yangtze River were 29, 59 individuals m-2 and 0.0307 g dry weight m-2. The lower benthic animal resources in the source region of the Yangtze River are ascribed to higher altitude, higher sediment concentration and wetland degradation. Preliminary findings of this exploratory study indicate that hydroelectric power stations had a weak impact on benthic dwellers but wetland degradation caused by a series of human activities had a catastrophic impact on survival of macroinvertebrates. Ecological protection measures such as conservative grazing and vegetation management are required to minimize grassland degradation and desertification, and reduce soil erosion rate and river sediment discharge.

Key words: macroinvertebrate, biodiversity, standing crops, functional feeding group, Yellow River source zone, Yangtze River source zone