Benthic and hyporheic macroinvertebrate distribution within the heads and tails of riffles during baseflow conditions
The distribution of lotic fauna is widely acknowledged to be patchy reflecting the interaction between biotic and abiotic factors. In an in-situ field study, the distribution of benthic and hyporheic invertebrates in the heads (downwelling) and tails (upwelling) of riffles were examined during stable baseflow conditions. Riffle heads were found to contain a greater proportion of interstitial fine sediment than riffle tails. Significant differences in the composition of benthic communities were associated with the amount of fine sediment. Riffle tail habitats supported a greater abundance and diversity of invertebrates sensitive to fine sediment such as EPT taxa. Shredder feeding taxa were more abundant in riffle heads suggesting greater availability of organic matter. In contrast, no significant differences in the hyporheic community were recorded between riffle heads and tails. We hypothesise that clogging of hyporheic interstices with fine sediments may have resulted in the homogenization of the invertebrate community by limiting faunal movement into the hyporheic zone at both the riffle head and tail. The results suggest that vertical hydrological exchange significantly influences the distribution of fine sediment and macroinvertebrate communities at the riffle scale.
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