Original Articles

Towards the development of a macroinvertebrate sampling technique for palustrine wetlands in South Africa: a pilot investigation in the KwaZuluNatal midlands


A study was undertaken in November 2003 to derive a suitable sampling technique for collecting a representative sample of aquatic macroinvertebrates from a selected emergent vegetation biotope in a palustrine wetland, Melmoth Vlei, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The aim was to undertake a preliminary investigation on the development and testing of a macroinvertebrate sampling technique for use in emergent sedge-dominated palustrine wetlands (sensu Cowardin et al. 1979), which could contribute to the development of a South African wetland health biomonitoring programme. Sweep nets and activity traps were evaluated for their effectiveness in terms of macroinvertebrate collection. Sweep net sampling was tested over a range of sweep intensities to determine the minimum number of sweeps required to collect a representative sample. Sampling efficiency of activity traps placed at four depths was tested, and taxon diversity and composition of sweep net and activity trap samples were compared to determine whether activity traps are required to supplement sweep net data. A total of 32 taxa (identified mainly to family level) were identified in the samples collected. Taxon diversity and composition did not differ in the activity traps placed at the four depth locations. Taxon diversity did not differ significantly between different sweep intensities. This may be a result of high variability of macroinvertebrate distribution within a wetland. There is evidence, however, to suggest that this result is due to an inadequate sample size. There was a significant difference in taxon composition between the different sweep intensities (P < 0.05) and between activity trap and sweep net samples (P < 0.05). Sixty-eight percent of taxa appeared more frequently in sweep net sampling than in activity trap sampling. Two taxa were found exclusively in activity traps, although the numbers of these taxa collected were not significant, and they do not represent any unique trophic group. Based on these findings, it was concluded that activity traps are not required to supplement sweep net data, and a technique using a sweep net with a sweep intensity of five would be suitable for collecting a representative sample of macroinvertebrates from a palustrine wetland.

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