Primary research paper

Hydrobiologia

, Volume 663, Issue 1, pp 51-69

First online:

Response of stream macroinvertebrate assemblages to erosion control structures in a wastewater dominated urban stream in the southwestern U.S.

  • S. Mark NelsonAffiliated withTechnical Service Center, Bureau of Reclamation, Denver Federal Center Email author 

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Abstract

Effects of stream erosion control structures on aquatic macroinvertebrates were studied (2000–2009) in a wastewater dominated drainage (Wash) in Las Vegas, Nevada. Mainstem sites with and without structures, wastewater treatment plant outfalls, a reference site above treatment plant inputs, and tributary sites were sampled. Ordination suggested hydrology and channel characteristics (current velocity, stream depth, and width), and water quality (conductivity) were primary factors in organizing macroinvertebrate communities, with some variables altered at structures. Treatment plant inputs changed hydrology (increased flows), water chemistry (conductivity decreased below treatment plants), and temperature. Assemblages differed between site types, with midges and damselflies important at tributary sites and Fallceon mayflies and Smicridea caddisflies common at erosion control structures. Locally unique communities developed at structures which also may have facilitated exotic species invasions. Analyses showed that taxa richness increased over time at these sites and differed significantly from richness at sites without structures. Structures appeared important in retaining organic matter and, among mainstem sites, coarse particulate organic matter was highest, but variable, at structures and at wetlands above the structures. Erosion control structures, coupled with warm effluent, high baseflows, and altered water quality resulted in development of a macroinvertebrate community that did not trend towards reference or tributary sites. In this case, ecological communities at structures used for river restoration were not on a continuum between disturbed and reference sites. Goal setting of community responses at these structures would have required insight beyond the simple use of reference site attributes.

Keywords

Erosion control structures Las Vegas Wash Macroinvertebrates Stream restoration Thiaridae Urban