The Sub-Saharan alpine freshwater biodiversity is currently impacted by human settlements, climate change, agriculture, and mining activities. Because of the limited biodiversity studies in the region, a better understanding is needed of the important environmental variables affecting macroinvertebrate assemblages. In this paper, macroinvertebrate diversity responses to 18 environmental variables were studied at 30 sites along unique Rwenzori rivers at the equator in Uganda. We hypothesized that anthropogenic disturbance and local environmental variables affect macroinvertebrate diversity, irrespective of altitudinal gradients. Based on altitude and climate, the sites were subdivided into three altitude groups consisting of 10 sites each: upstream (US) 1400–1600 m.a.s.l.; midstream (MS) 1091–1399 m.a.s.l., and downstream (DS) 900–1090 m.a.s.l. A total of 44 macroinvertebrate families and 1623 individuals were identified. The macroinvertebrate diversity patterns were influenced by temperature, altitude, and latitude. Regression analysis revealed that temperature and nickel, were negative predictors of taxa richness. Nickel, which is released by mining activity, is detrimental to aquatic communities in Sub-Saharan alpine ecosystems. Significant longitudinal variation in macroinvertebrate diversity was observed between the sites, which were also affected by mineral and temperature gradients. Our study highlights the need for long-term monitoring in this region to detect and reduce the threats to river biodiversity from anthropogenic activity.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited