INHABIT project

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Convergent adaptation of aquatic communities

When we intend to separate the impact of actual human-induced alterations from the effects of natural habitat variations on biotic communities, main complications are encountered when observed impact causes changes in the biological community towards conditions that are found in natural situations, e.g. variations related to seasonality or to changes in flow / level. In fact, many disturbance factors such as, for example, many types of water pollution, determine imbalances in the structure of the biocoenoses. Such imbalances are easily detectable, as they assume abnormal characteristics compared to natural conditions. Other pressures, e.g. water abstraction and hydrological alterations, can lead the biocoenosis to assume features found elsewhere, in different periods of the year or in different years, in the absence of such alteration.

In order to bring to evidence such conditions, evaluation of biological aspects of the ecosystem has to be coupled with description and quantification of habitat characteristics, that will allow the interpretation of information related to the underlying variations, for instance, hydromorphological features. The information, directly formalized in terms of habitat, will represent a bridge between processes and factors occurring to large scale and the response of biocoenoses, thus allowing a better understanding of the overall picture, both in terms of quantification of impacts and estimation of effectiveness of measures.