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A survey of benthic invertebrates in the Suwannee River, Florida

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Benthic invertebrate communities were surveyed in a 233 km reach of the middle and lower Suwannee River in Northwestern Florida in the winter 1987 and early summer 1988 to determine their abundance and distribution as potential foods of the Gulf sturgeon, Acipenser oxyrhynchus desotoi, and to determine the effects of possible natural and human-induced disturbances to the communities. In substrates of the tidal oligohaline to mesohaline lower reach of the East Pass site I (km 2) and site II West Pass (km 5) near the Gulf of Mexico, densities of tube dwelling and free swimming amphipods, polychaetes, oligochaetes, and dipterans in the PONAR grabs were moderate (100–999 {iex} individuals/m2) to abundant (1000–9999 {iex} individuals m−2). Also, at sites I and II, low (10–99 {iex} individuals m−2) to moderate densities of dipteran Chironomidae and olive nerite snail were collected in hardboard multiplate artificial substrate samplers. Diversities of benthic invertebrates in both grabs and hardboard multiplates were relatively low. Baetid mayflies were moderately abundant in the dip net samples. Upriver from sites I and II, the transition of an oligohaline tolerant benthic community to a freshwater one was abrupt due to strong freshwater flow. At sites III (km 48) and IV (km 89), benthic invertebrate populations were low to moderate in hardboard multiplate and dip net samples. In the middle reach (km 101 to km 233), aquatic insects were predominant and included; chironomids, mayflies, and beetles, and also, freshwater gammarid amphipods, gastropods, and the Asian clam. In winter, the bottom substrates at sites VII (km 153) and VIII (km 205) contained diverse and dense populations of Chironomidae (5932 m−2), the greatest density for a major taxonomic group recorded in this survey. Crayfish were collected in low densities only in artificial substrate samplers from sites IV to IX. Leeches were widespread in the study area. Empirical Biotic Index values that reflect impacts of organic wastes on benthic invertebrate communities were within a narrow range, 3.16 to 6.38, and indicated ‘slightly enriched’ to ‘enriched’ water. Of the total 186 benthic invertebrate taxa, 82% had quality values 0 to 5 that indicate overall ‘clean water’ conditions. The predominant benthic invertebrates in the Suwannee River were detritivorous and the communities reflected oligotrophic to mesotrophic waters.

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Mason, W.T. A survey of benthic invertebrates in the Suwannee River, Florida. Environ Monit Assess 16, 163–187 (1991).

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  • Polychaete
  • Major Taxonomic Group
  • Biotic Index
  • Gammarid Amphipod
  • Benthic Invertebrate Community