Mining activities are among the most long-lasting anthropogenic pressures on streams and rivers. Therefore, detecting different benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages in the areas recovered from mining activities is essential to establish conservation and management plans for improving the freshwater biodiversity in streams located near mining areas. We compared the stability of benthic macroinvertebrate communities between streams affected by mining activities (Hwangjicheon: NHJ and Cheolamcheon: NCA) and the least disturbed stream (Songjeonricheon: NSJ) using network analysis, self-organizing map, and indicator species analysis. Species richness was lowest at sites where stream sediments were reddened or whitened due to mining impacts in NHJ and NCA. Among functional feeding groups, the ratio of scrapers was lower (i.e., NHJ) or not observed (i.e., NCA) in the affected sites by mining. The networks (species interactions) were less connected in NHJ and NCA than in NSJ, indicating that community stability decreased in the area affected by mining activity. We identified five groups based on the similarity of benthic macroinvertebrate communities according to the gradients of mining impacts using a self-organizing map. the samples from the reference stream (clusters 1 and 5), sites located near the mining water inflow area (cluster 4), sites where stream sediments acid-sulfated (cluster 2), and sites that had recovered from mining impacts (cluster 3). Among the 40 taxa selected as indicators defined from the five clusters in self-organizing map, only few (Physa acuta
KUa, and Nemoura
KUb) indicator species were selected in each cluster representing the mining-impacted sites. Our results highlighted that the benthic macroinvertebrate community complexity was lower in streams affected by mining activity. Furthermore, the range of disturbed areas in the streams, where conservation and management plans should be prioritized, can be quantified by examining alterations in the benthic macroinvertebrate community.
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