, Volume 281, Issue 1, pp 1–17 | Cite as

Response of macroinvertebrates to blooms of iron-depositing bacteria

  • Todd A. Wellnitz
  • Kristianne A. Grief
  • Sallie P. Sheldon


In field measurements and laboratory experiments we assessed the influence of high levels of iron, manganese, and concurrent blooms of iron-depositing bacteria, Leptothrix ochracea, on macroinvertebrates. Macroinvertebrate communities in five of six streams were depauerate inside blooms. Reasons for the decreased abundance vary among taxa, with our experiments demonstrating the importance, for one or more species, of (1) direct toxic effects, and,/or smothering, (2) behavioral avoidance of bacterial-coated substrates, and (3) an inability to use bacteria as food. Three mayfly species showed increased mortality when caged inside the blooms, but five trichopterans and one plecopteran did not. Five invertebrates avoided Leptothrix-coated substrate in choice trials, while three did not. Stenonema fuscum could not ingest Leptothrix, and Neophylax nacatus had reduced growth feeding on it, but Heptagenia umbratica grew equally well on diets of Leptothrix or diatoms. This study demonstrates the important role epilithic organisms play in modifying substrates, and how these changes may act to influence benthic abundance and distribution in streams.

Key words

iron-depositing bacteria streams macroinvertebrates epilithic substrates 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. American Public Health Association, 1986. Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater, 16th edn. American Public Health Association, Washington D.C., 1268 pp.Google Scholar
  2. Brown, B. E., 1977. Effects of mine drainage on the river Hayle, Cornwall. A.) Factors affecting concentration of Cu, Zn, and Fe in water, sediments and dominant invertebrate fauna. Hydrobiologia 52: 221–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ghiorse, W. C., 1984. Biology of iron- and manganese-depositing bacteria. Ann. Rev. Microbiol. 38: 515–560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Godfrey, P. J., 1978. Diversity as a measure of benthic macroinvertebrate response to water pollution. Hydrobiologia 57: 111–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Greenfield, J. P. & M. P. Ireland, 1978. A survey of the macrofauna of a coal-waste polluted Lancashire fluvial stream. Envir. Pollut. 16: 105–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Hildrew, A. G. & C. R. Townsend, 1976. The distribution of two predators and their prey in an iron-rich stream. J. anim. Ecol. 45: 41–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Hildebrand, S. G., 1974. The relation of drift to benthos density and food level in an artificial stream. Limnol. Oceangr. 19: 951–957.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Jones, J. G., 1975. Some observations on the occurrence of the iron bacterium Leptothrix ochracea in fresh water, including reference to large experimental enclosures. J. appl. Bact. 39: 63–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Kohler, S. L. & M. A. McPeek, 1989. Predation risk and the foraging behavior of competing stream insects. Ecology 70: 1811–1825.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Koryak, M., M. A. Shapiro & J. L. Sykora, 1972. Riffle zoobenthos in streams receiving acid mine drainage. Wat. Res. 6: 1239–1247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Krebs, C. J., 1989. Ecological Methodology. Harper & Row Publisher, New York, 654 pp.Google Scholar
  12. Letterman, R. D. & W. J. Mitch, 1978. Impact of mine drainage on a mountain stream in Pennsylvania. Envir. Pollut. 17: 53–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Matter, W. J. & J. J. Ney, 1981. The impact of surface mine reclamation on headwater streams in Southwest Virginia. Hydrobiologia 78: 63–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. McKnight, D. M. & G. L. Feder, 1984. The ecological effect of acid conditions and precipitation of hydrous metal oxides in a Rocky Mountain stream. Hydrobiologia 199: 129–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Merritt, R. W. & K. W. Cummins, 1984. An Introduction to the Aquatic Insects of North America. Second Edition. Kendal/Hunt Publishing Company, Dubuque, IA, 722 pp.Google Scholar
  16. Mulder, E. GZ. & M. H. Deinema, 1981. The sheathed bacteria. In: Starr, M. P., H. Stroph, H. G. Truper, A. Balows, H. C. Schlegel (eds), The Prokaryotes: A Handbook on the Habitats, Isolation, and Identification of Bacteria. Volume 1. Springer-Verlag, Berlin: 425–440.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Needham, J. G., J. R. Traver & Y. Hsu, 1972. The biology of Mayflies. E. W. Classey Ltd. Hampton, Middlesex, England, 759 pp.Google Scholar
  18. Osborne, L. L., R. W. Davies & K. J. Linton, 1979. Effects of limestone strip mining on benthos macroinvertebrate communities. Wat. Res. 13: 1285–1290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Parsons, J. D., 1968. The effects of acid strip-mine effluents on the ecology of a stream. Arch Hydrobiol. 66: 25–50.Google Scholar
  20. Petersen, L. B. M. & R. C. Petersen, Jr., 1983. Anomalies in hydropsychid capture nets from polluted streams. Freshwat. Biol. 13: 119–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Rasmussen, K. & C. Lindegaard, 1988. Effects of iron compounds on macroinvertebrate communities in a Danish lowland river system. Wat. Res. 22: 101–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. SAS Institute, 1985 sas Institute, Cary, N.C.Google Scholar
  23. Scullion, J. & R. W. Edwards, 1980. The effects of coal industry pollutants on the macroinvertebrate fauna of a small river in the South Wales coalfield. Freshwat. Biol. 10: 141–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Sheldon, S. P. & D. K. Skelly, 1990. Differential colonation and growth of algae and ferromanganese-depositing bacteria in a mountain stream. J. Freshwat. Ecol. 5: 475–485.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Sokal, R. R. & F. J. Rohlf, 1981. Biometry. The principles and practice of statistics in biological research. Freshwat. Biol. 13: 301–311.Google Scholar
  26. Smock, L. A., 1983. Relationships between metal concentration and organism size in aquatic insects. Freshwat. Biol. 13: 313–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Sode, A., 1983. Effect of ferric hydroxide on algae and oxygen consumption by sediment in a Danish stream. Arch. Hydrobiol. Suppl. 65: 134–162.Google Scholar
  28. Warner, R. W., 1971. Distribution of biota in a stream polluted by acid mine drainage. Ohio J. Sci. 71: 202–215.Google Scholar
  29. Warnick, S. L. & H. L. Bell, 1969. The acute toxicity of some heavy metals to different species of aquatic insects. J. Wat. Pollut. Cont. Fed. 41: 280–284.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Todd A. Wellnitz
    • 1
  • Kristianne A. Grief
    • 1
  • Sallie P. Sheldon
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyMiddlebury CollegeMiddleburyUSA

Personalised recommendations