, Volume 91, Issue 2, pp 220–228 | Cite as

Community organization in streams: the importance of species interactions, physical factors, and chance

  • David D. Hart
Original Papers


Experimental studies were used to examine the mechanisms governing the distribution and abundance of two major patch types in unshaded reaches of Augusta Creek, Michigan (USA). One patch type is dominated by Cladophora glomerata, a macroalga potentially able to monopolize space, whereas the other type is comprised of a low-growing, epilithic microalgal lawn inhabited by several species of sessile grazers (especially the caddisflies Leucotrichia pictipes and Psychomyia flavida). Cladophora patches are absent from mid-channel sites characterized by current velocities ≤ ca. 50 cm s−1; caging experiments indicate that their absence is due to grazing by crayfish (Orconectes propinquus). Cladophora's presence in sites with velocities >50 cm s−1 apparently results in part because crayfish foraging activity is impaired in high flow regimes. The presence of Cladophora strongly affects various other invertebrates due to its alteration of abiotic and biotic characteristics of the microhabitat. For example, the abundance of sessile grazers (e.g. Leucotrichia and Psychomyia) that inhabit microalgal patches is negatively correlated to the abundance of Cladophora, whereas the abundance of several other invertebrates (e.g. Stenonema mayflies and Taeniopteryx stoneflies) is positively correlated to Cladophora's abundance. Therefore, in some portions of this system, crayfish act as keystone predators because of their ability to regulate the abundance of Cladophora, which in turn has strong positive and negative effects on other components of the community. Cladophora does not always monopolize space at high velocities in the absence of crayfish, however. If sessile grazers arrive at such sites before Cladophora, they can prevent its establishment. Thus, where crayfish are absent, the likelihood that a site will be dominated by either Cladophora patches or sessile grazer — microalgal lawn patches depends on two sets of stochastic processes: (1) those that create bare space (e.g. disturbance and grazer emergence); and (2) those controlling the timing of recruitment by Cladophora or grazers at these bare sites. These priority effects (i.e. the ability of grazers and Cladophora to inhibit each other's establishment) contribute to the marked spatial heterogeneity of these two patch types. Collectively, these results demonstrate how interactions between competition, predation, and physical factors can generate a complex mixture of community patterns.

Key words

Indirect effects Keystone predators Plant-herbivore interactions Predator refuges Priority effects 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • David D. Hart
    • 1
  1. 1.Academy of Natural SciencesPhiladelphiaUSA

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