, Volume 652, Issue 1, pp 195-206
Date: 26 Jun 2010

Experimental increases and reductions of light to streams: effects on periphyton and macroinvertebrate assemblages in a coniferous forest landscape

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Abstract

Increased light reaching streams as a result of riparian vegetation management is often thought to be responsible for enhanced algal productivity. However, concomitant changes in nutrients and other physical processes confound that interpretation. We manipulated light in two separate experiments to test the role of light as a controlling factor for periphyton productivity and biomass, and to observe invertebrate responses in small streams in central British Columbia, Canada. We did this by adding artificial light to reaches of three forested streams, and in a second experiment we used shadecloth to cover reaches of two streams flowing through clearcuts. Periphyton growth, productivity and composition, and macroinvertebrate benthic densities were contrasted with control reaches within the same streams. Gross primary production (GPP) was increased at least 31% by light addition to forested streams. Periphyton biomass was higher under light additions, but only significantly so in one of the streams. In one stream grazers increased along with the periphyton response, whilst in the other two lit streams invertebrates, including grazers, decreased with increased light. The shading significantly reduced GPP to about 11% of that in clearcut sections, but failed to produce any significant responses in either periphyton standing stock or invertebrates in the clearcut streams. Measures of algal production and biomass responded as predicted; however, invertebrate responses to increased and decreased light were idiosyncratic amongst streams, perhaps indicating lagged responses and limitation by other resources.

Handling editor: D. Dudgeon