BOREAL FOREST STREAMS
WATER BEETLE ASSEMBLAGES
Small blanket bog lakes can contain many rare and threatened aquatic invertebrate species. Their conservation value, however, is threatened throughout Europe by peat extraction and particularly conifer afforestation, which can compromise the physico-chemical habitat quality of peatland lakes through excessive inputs of forestry-derived dissolved and particulate substances. To quantify the effect of conifer plantation forestry on the conservation value of these habitats, we compared the hydrochemistry and assemblages of aquatic Coleoptera, Heteroptera and Odonata of replicate lakes across three distinct catchment land uses: (i) unplanted blanket bog only present in the catchment, (ii) mature conifer plantation forests only present in the catchment and (iii) catchments containing mature conifer plantation forests with recently clearfelled areas. All three catchment land uses were replicated across regions of sedimentary and igneous geology. Lakes with afforested catchments, in both geologies, had elevated concentrations of plant nutrients, total dissolved organic carbon and heavy metals, the highest concentrations being recorded from the clearfell lakes. Coleoptera and Heteroptera assemblages responded strongly to forestry-mediated changes in water chemistry, whereas Odonata assemblages responded more to catchment geology - geology being confounded by altitudinal differences between lakes. The greatest species-quality scores (SQSs) and species richness were recorded from the clearfell lakes. Three of the four International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) nationally red-listed species recorded during this study were, however, absent from clearfell lakes. Our findings demonstrate that plantation forestry can have a profound impact on the aquatic macroinvertebrate assemblages and conservation value of small blanket bog lakes, primarily via eutrophication. Despite indices such as SQS scores and species richness appearing to reveal a beneficial response of blanket bog lake communities to habitat deterioration, they mask that certain 'emblematic' species are being severely negatively impacted by the disturbance caused by plantation forestry. Considering the need for fertiliser to produce economically viable plantation forest crops, coupled with the inefficiencies of peat soils in retaining applied nutrients, the degradation of peatland lakes is likely to become more prevalent as plantation forestry continues to expand worldwide. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.