Reconstructing riverine paleo-flow regimes using subfossil insects (Coleoptera and Trichoptera): the application of the LIFE methodology to paleochannel sediments

Sub-fossil insect remains have the potential to characterise changing environmental conditions in both lentic and lotic water systems, however, relatively few studies have been undertaken in riverine environments. This paper uses sub-fossil caddisfly larvae (Trichoptera) and aquatic beetles (Coleoptera) to reconstruct river flow conditions for a large paleochannel (from multiple monoliths) using the Lotic invertebrate Index for Flow Evaluation (LIFE). Examination of the larval Trichoptera and Coleoptera remains indicated a marked change in the community and flow environment, as suggested by paleoLIFE scores within the profile of three of the monoliths examined. At the base of the channel the community was characterised by taxa indicative of high energy lotic habitats with predominantly mineral substrates (e.g. Trichoptera: Hydropsyche contubernalis and Brachycentrus subnubilis, Coleoptera: Elmis aenea and Esolus parallelepipedus). Within three of the monoliths there was a change in community composition to one indicative of a low energy backwater/lentic environment with abundant submerged and emergent vegetation (e.g. Trichoptera: Phryganea bipunctata and Limnephilus flavicornis, Coleoptera: Colymbetes fuscus and Hydrobius fuscipes). Detrended Correspondence Analysis (DCA) and loss of mass on ignition (LOI) indicated the presence of a strong environmental gradient within the data, associated with river flow. The utilisation of two aquatic insect orders provides clear evidence of temporal changes within the instream community and when combined with knowledge of ecological and habitat associations, allows differences between the two groups to be interpreted more clearly.