, Volume 230, Issue 1, pp 49-61

Effects of spates on the vertical distribution of the interstitial community

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The effect of hydrological variations on the vertical distribution of interstitial organisms was studied in a by-passed channel of the Rhône River(France) in terms of the distortion and recovery of community structure over a 480-day period that included 9 spates. The hypogean and epigean components of the interstitial assemblages were studied, the latter at four depths (50, 100, 150 and 200 cm) within the substratum, during a succession of artificially regulated spates and periods of low flow. Interstitial fauna were obtained with a Bou-Rouch sampler through permanent standpipes at intervals of one, seven and seventeen days after each spate. A strong relationship was demonstrated between disturbance intensity (amplitude and duration of spates) and the magnitude of changes in the vertical distribution of the fauna. Both hypogean and epigean organisms were displaced vertically after each spate, resulting in an increase in the numbers of epigean organisms in interstitial layers. Recovery of vertical distribution of the interstitial fauna to pre-spate conditions, consisted of a decrease of epigean and an increase of hypogean fauna with the substratum, mainly at intermediate sampling depths (100, 150 cm). The effect of spates on community structure and rate of recovery varied in relation to 1) the combination of spate amplitude and duration (i.e. the shape of the discharge pattern), 2) the disturbance regime (i.e. the recent hydrological past) and 3) season (temperature and biological cycle).