Aquatic Sciences

, 81:11 | Cite as

Changes in benthic invertebrate communities of central Appalachian streams attributed to hemlock woody adelgid invasion

  • Kristen M. DiesburgEmail author
  • S. Mažeika P. Sullivan
  • David W. P. Manning
Research Article


Eastern hemlock trees (Tsuga canadensis [L.] Carr.) often dominate riparian vegetation of central Appalachian headwater streams, and the invasive hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae Annand; HWA) has decimated hemlock stands in this region. Although research concerning HWA impacts on soil, hydrology, and forest structure is emerging, associated changes in stream structure and function are not as well documented. We quantified HWA-invasion effects on benthic macroinvertebrate communities in 21 headwater streams across Ohio, West Virginia, and Virginia (USA) representing unimpacted, moderate invasion, and severe invasion, respectively. We observed differences in benthic macroinvertebrate community composition; severely invaded sites exhibited the highest diversity, whereas moderate sites had the lowest diversity. The composition of macroinvertebrate functional feeding groups exhibited shifts as well. For example, the relative abundance of herbivorous invertebrates increased from 4% (± 3%) at unimpacted sites to 23% (± 14%) at severely impacted sites. Changes in macroinvertebrate density, diversity, and functional-group composition were associated with sediment grainsize distribution (proportion bedrock and D84), large-wood characteristics (volume and density), and nutrient concentrations (PO4 and NH4). Our results suggest that in-stream physical and chemical alterations associated with HWA-invasion and subsequent hemlock decline are associated with changes in stream invertebrate diversity and trophic relationships. We demonstrate how a pervasive terrestrial invader can influence in-stream biotic communities.


Aquatic insects Aquatic-terrestrial linkages Invasive species Stream ecosystems Water chemistry 



Research support was provided by state and federal funds appropriated to The Ohio State University, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) through the OARDC Research Enhancement Competitive Grants Program (SMPS). We also wish to thank members of the Stream and River Ecology (STRIVE) Lab for their assistance in the lab and the field, as well as additional support from P. Soltesz, Dr. P.C. Goebel, and Dr. K. Jaeger.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

27_2018_607_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (84 kb)
Online Resource 1 Raw data including macroinvertebrate taxa, sampling dates, microhabitat, and functional feeding group designation (XLSX 84 KB)


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Schiermeier Olentangy River Wetland Research Park, School of Environment and Natural ResourcesThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of Nebraska at OmahaOmahaUSA

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