, Volume 119, Issue 2, pp 129–138 | Cite as

The ecological effect of acid conditions and precipitation of hydrous metal oxides in a Rocky Mountain stream

  • Diane M. McKnight
  • Gerald L. Feder


Periphyton and benthic invertebrates assemblages were studied at the confluence of two Rocky Mountain streams, Deer Creek and the Snake River near Montezuma, Colorado. Upstream from the confluence the Snake River is acidic and enriched in dissolved trace metals, while Deer Creek is a typical Rocky Mountain stream. In the Snake River, downstream from the confluence, the pH increases and hydrous metal oxides precipitate and cover the streambed. The algal and benthic invertebrate communities in the upstream reaches of the Snake River and in Deer Creek were very different. A liverwort, Scapania undulata var. undulata, was abundant in the Snake River, and although periphyton were very sparse, there were as many benthic invertebrates as in Deer Creek. Downstream from the confleunce, the precipitation of hydrous metal oxides greatly decreased the abundance of periphyton and benthic invertebrates. This study shows that in streams metal precipitates covering the streambed may have a more deleterious effect on stream communities than high metal-ion activities.


periphyton benthic invertebrates hydrous metal oxides acid conditions stream ecology 


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Copyright information

© Dr. W. Junk Publishers 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diane M. McKnight
    • 1
  • Gerald L. Feder
    • 1
  1. 1.U. S. Geological Survey, Water Resources DivisionDenver Federal CenterDenverU.S.A.

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