Changes in the benthic fauna composition in the Upper Vistula over the last 50 years - the consequences of the water pollution reduction and alien species invasion.
The organic pollution of the Upper Vistula waters has been significantly reduced since the mid-20th century. Also salinity has gradually decreased, following an increase observed until the 1990s. Furthermore, the number of alien species has systematically increased. The above-mentioned changes have affected the richness and composition of the benthic fauna. They are particularly remarkable in the river stretch between the town of Oświęcim and the city of Kraków. The improvement of water quality has resulted in the increased number of taxa, mainly those characteristic of moderately polluted water, and the disappearance of taxa typical of strongly polluted or deoxygenated water. Despite the increased salinity level persisting for many years, only three benthic species of brackish waters (Gammarus tigrinus, Paranais frici and P. litoralis) were found in the Upper Vistula. Taxa considered to be euryhaline or halophilous were more numerous. In the 1960s, only one alien species (Physa acuta) was found, but the increased number of non-indigenous species in the last decades is visible, particularly among gammarid crustaceans (Amphipoda, Gammaroidea). The presence of alien species has not caused any visible changes in the species abundance of oligochaetes and mollusks.