, Volume 499, Issue 1-3, pp 135-145

Current velocity and invertebrate grazing regulate stream algae: results of an in situ electrical exclusion

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Abstract

Current velocity is a pervasive feature of lotic systems, yet this defining environmental variable is rarely examined as a factor for regulating stream herbivory. To investigate how current modifies herbivory in the upper Colorado River, U.S.A., loops of electrified fencing wire were used to reduce in situ grazer densities on 30 × 30 cm tile substrates. After 45 d, electrified tiles had significantly fewer grazers (P = 0.03) and >2X more algal biomass than controls (P = 0.0002). Reduced grazing on electrified tiles yielded periphytic assemblages having more diatoms and chlorophytes, as well as greater algal species richness. Current velocity effects alone did not significantly regulate algal abundance; however, the interaction between current velocity and grazer exclusion resulted in more algae in slow vs. fast current (P = 0.02). Grazer abundances were similar between fast and slow current velocities, suggesting that grazers in the Colorado River differ in their ability to regulate algae across the current velocity gradient. Our results indicate that stream current-mediated herbivory in streams may be more important than is generally recognized.