, Volume 9, Issue 11, pp 1543-1570

An exploration of factors influencing lotic insect species richness

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Abstract

An understanding of factors that influence species richness of lotic insects is generally lacking. We present comparative data on aquatic insect species richness from several North American and other streams. Factors such as large sample numbers and drainage area (species area relationships) are not significant predictors of species richness across the streams we examined. We explore several hypotheses regarding the origins and maintenance of species richness using Upper Three Runs Creek (UTR), South Carolina, USA, as a reference stream. UTR has the highest species richness of any stream in the Western Hemisphere. Hypotheses examined included historical, regional and local processes such as: (1) Evolutionary time, (2) disturbance regime/environmental variability, (3) temperature/evolutionary-speed, (4) productivity, and (5) habitat heterogeneity. Of these hypotheses, we suggest that productivity and habitat heterogeneity appear to contribute most to the high species richness found in UTR. We believe that multidisciplinary analysis of other streams is necessary because without this crucial information our knowledge of, and desire to protect biodiversity in streams will be wanting.