, Volume 75, Issue 2, pp 285-297
Date: 26 Aug 2012

Influences of agricultural landuse and seasonal changes in abiotic conditions on invertebrate colonisation of riparian leaf detritus in intermittent streams

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The structure and function of agricultural stream reaches with sparse riparian and floodplain vegetation differ from those of forested reaches, but may be ‘reset’ as these streams flow through reaches with forested riparian zones. We investigated whether invertebrate colonisation of River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) leaf packs in lowland intermittent streams was influenced by the adjacent reach-scale landuse (cleared farmland or forested reserve) within an agricultural catchment in Victoria, Australia. Further, we examined the influence of seasonal changes in hydrology and associated changes in abiotic conditions on the colonisation of leaves by repeating experiments over two summers and one spring. Across these experiments, there were no consistent differences in the structure of communities that colonised leaves in farmland and reserve reaches. In both seasons, most leaf colonists were collectors and few were shredders in both farmland and reserve reaches. Relative abundances of gastropod grazers were much higher in summer than in spring. The structure of invertebrate communities colonising leaves in the different reaches converged over time when streams flowed in spring, but diverged over time as the streams dried and abiotic conditions within disconnected pools became increasingly harsh in summer. Thus, patterns of leaf pack colonisation were influenced by the regional climate causing large seasonal changes in hydrology, but not by reach-scale landuse. The large-scale disturbances of agricultural landuse across the catchment and a supra-seasonal drought probably contributed to low diversities of invertebrate communities in the streams.