High altitude glacier-fed streams are harsh environments inhabiting specialized invertebrate communities. Most research on biotic aspects in glacier-fed streams have focused on the simple relationship between presence/absence of species and prevailing environmental conditions, whereas functional strategies and potentials of glacial stream specialists have been hardly investigated so far. Using new and recent datasets from our investigations in the European Alps, we now demonstrate distinct functional properties of invertebrates that typically dominate glacier-fed streams and show significant relationships with declining glacier cover in alpine stream catchments. In particular, we present and argue about cause-effect relationships between glacier cover in the catchment and temperature, community structure, diversity, feeding strategies, early life development, body mass, and growth of invertebrates. By concentrating on key taxa in glacial and non-glacial alpine streams, the relevance of distinct adaptations in these functional components becomes evident. This clearly demonstrates that further studies of functional characteristics are essential for the understanding of peculiar diversity patterns, successful traits and their plasticity, evolutionary triggered species adaptions, and flexibilities.
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