Perennial streams and rivers are now largely subjected to fragmentation and lentification processes due to flow reduction, which creates a number of lateral habitats with different degrees of hydrological connectivity. These habitats have environmental conditions and biotic interactions that can be far divergent than those of main channel habitats. However, they remain largely unexplored, especially in temperate regions. We here focused on studying algal dynamics and their interactions with aquatic invertebrates across mesohabitats (i.e., main channel, secondary channel, pools) in streambeds under both normal and low flow conditions. We selected four watercourses in the Po Plain (northern Italy), where we detected the main dynamics and drivers of algal and invertebrate communities by applying mixed effect modelling. A clear algal growth trend was detected in summer, and was similar for all mesohabitats, but with temporal decoupling and doubled values in pools. Mesohabitat and time were central factors in driving benthic algae dynamics that, in turn, negatively affected aquatic invertebrates. Hydrology and algae seemed to have a mutually reinforcing effect on macroinvertebrates by reducing almost all the investigated metrics. By considering future projections on further regime shifts in lotic systems, loss of biodiversity driven by algal blooms could become a major concern, and also for potential cascade impacts on other biotic compartments of river networks.
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