Primary Research Paper


, Volume 563, Issue 1, pp 109-123

First online:

The Distribution of Benthic and Hyporheic Macroinvertebrates from the Heads and Tails of Riffles

  • John Davy-BowkerAffiliated withCentre for Ecology & Hydrology, Winfrith Technology Centre Email author 
  • , Wayne SweetingAffiliated withSchool of Biological Sciences, University of Wales
  • , Nicole WrightAffiliated withDepartment of Geography, Simon Fraser University
  • , Ralph T. ClarkeAffiliated withCentre for Ecology & Hydrology, Winfrith Technology Centre
  • , Sean ArnottAffiliated withCentre for Ecology & Hydrology, Winfrith Technology Centre

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


The spatial distribution of benthic (up to 0.05 m depth) and hyporheic (0.25 and 0.5 m depth) macroinvertebrates from downwelling zones at the heads of riffles and upwelling zones at the tails of riffles was examined in two studies on a 4th order chalk stream in Dorset, England. In the first study, differences in benthic and hyporheic macroinvertebrate community composition between the head and tail of a single riffle were investigated. In the second study, a replicated design involving eight riffles was used to compare benthic and hyporheic macroinvertebrate community composition both between heads and tails of the same riffles and between riffles. In the first (single riffle) study there were significantly higher mean numbers of benthic invertebrates and families at the riffle head (715 individuals and 13.8 families per 0.0225 m2) compared to the tail (192 individuals and 8.7 families). ANOSIM analysis also showed that the community structure of head and tail benthic samples was significantly different. In the second (replicated riffle) study, there were also significantly more benthic invertebrates at riffle heads (\(\bar{x}\) = 594 per 0.0225 m2) compared to tails (\(\bar{x}\) = 417 per 0.0225 m2), although this was not the case for families, and community structure also differed significantly between riffle heads and tails. In contrast, in the hyporheic zone, there were no significant differences between the total numbers of invertebrates in the riffle heads and tails, or between riffles, although a significant difference in family richness between riffle head and tail samples was identified in the first study. Community analysis revealed progressively poorer separation of riffle head and tail samples at 0.25 m and 0.5 m hyporheic depths. Whilst being able to identify clear differences in benthic communities from riffles heads and tails, the physically heterogeneous nature of the riffle habitats studied made it difficult to account for the consistent differences in macroinvertebrate communities observed with the physical variables measured.


macroinvertebrates benthic hyporheic riffle upwelling downwelling