Mongolia’s riverine landscape is divided into three watersheds, differing in extent of permafrost, amount of precipitation and in hydrological connectivity between sub-drainages. In order to assess the vulnerability of macroinvertebrate communities to ongoing climate change, we consider the taxonomic and functional structures of stream communities in two major watersheds: The Central Asian Internal Watershed (CAIW) and the Arctic Ocean Watershed (AOW), together covering 86.1% of Mongolia’s surface area. We assess the consequences of the hydrological connectivity between sub-drainages on the nestedness and distinctness of the stream communities. And accordingly, we discuss the expected biotic changes to occur in each watershed as a consequence of climate change.
Gamma and beta diversities were higher in the CAIW than the AOW. High community nestedness was also found in the CAIW along with a higher heterogeneity of macroinvertebrate assemblage structure. Assemblages characteristic of cold headwater streams in the CAIW, were typical of the drainages of the Altai Mountain range. Macroinvertebrate guilds of the CAIW streams exhibited traits reflecting a high stability and low resilience capacity for eutrophication. In contrast, the community of the AOW had lower nestedness and a combination of traits reflecting higher stability and a better resilience capacity to disturbances.
Higher distinctness of stream communities is due to lower connectivity between the drainages. This was the case of the stream macroinvertebrate communities of the two major Mongolian watersheds, where connectivity of streams between sub-drainages is an important element structuring their communities. Considering differences in the communities’ guild structure, hydrological connectivity and different magnitudes of upcoming impacts of climate change between the two watersheds, respective stream communities will be affected differently. The hitherto different communities will witness an increasing differentiation and divergent adaptations for the upcoming changes. Accordingly, in an increasing awareness to protect Mongolia’s nature, our results encourage adapting conservation planning and management strategies specifically by watershed.