, Volume 592, Issue 1, pp 423–438 | Cite as

The effect of fine sedimentation on tropical stream macroinvertebrate assemblages: a comparison using flow-through artificial stream channels and recirculating mesocosms

Primary Research Paper


In-situ artificial stream channels and ex-situ laboratory mesocosms were used to measure the responses of macroinvertebrate assemblages, from upland and lowland tropical streams, to high loads of fine clay sediment. Significant responses were observed mainly in the in-situ channels in the upland stream, where densities and the number of taxa were lower in the treatment channels than in controls. There was no evidence of any taxon being particularly sensitive to sedimentation, with a general decrease in densities across several taxa and differences only detectable for abundant taxa. Animals moved downstream in response to the treatment, but only a short distance within the channels. However, further colonization after the treatment was impeded in the treatment channels. In the mesocosm experiments, the upland macroinvertebrate assemblage demonstrated some negative effects; however, the lowland fauna was very tolerant to sedimentation, even when exposure was extended to 15 days. Together, the mesocosm and in-situ experiments indicate that there is a behavioural response to sedimentation because of a change in the habitat, and that the lowland macroinvertebrate assemblage is more tolerant of sedimentation, at least in the short term.


Sedimentation Suspended solids Macroinvertebrates Drift Tropical streams Pollution 



We thank Linda Davis, Joanne Burden, and Gordon Kovacs for providing field and laboratory assistance and Barry Butler for clarifying some water-quality issues. The Rainforest Cooperative Research Centre and Land and Water Australia provided financial support. We also acknowledge the reviewers’ constructive comments.


  1. Bailey, P. C. E., 1981. Diel activity patterns in nymphs of an Australian mayfly Atalophlebioides sp. (Ephemeroptera: Leptophlebiidae). Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 32: 121–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barton, B. A., 1977. Short term effects of highway construction on the limnology of a small stream in southern Ontario. Freshwater Biology 7: 99–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Campbell, I. A. & T. J. Doeg, 1989. Impact of timber harvesting and production on streams: a review. Australian Journal of Marine & Freshwater Research 40: 519–539.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ciborowski, J. H., P. J. Pointing & I. D. Corkum, 1977. The effect of current velocity and sediment on the drift of the mayfly Ephemerella subvaria McDunnough. Freshwater Biology 7: 567–572.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cline, L. D., R. A. Short & J. V. Ward, 1982. The influence of highway construction on the macroinvertebrates and epilithic algae of a high mountain stream. Hydrobiologia 96: 149–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Connolly, N. M. & R. G. Pearson, 2004. Impacts of forest conversion on the ecology of streams in the humid tropics. In Bonnell, M. & L. A. Bruijnzeel (eds), Forests, Water and People in the Humid Tropics. Cambridge University Press, 140–163.Google Scholar
  7. Connolly, N. M., M. R. Crossland & R. G. Pearson, 2004. Effect of low dissolved oxygen on survival, emergence and drift in tropical stream macroinvertebrate communities. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 23: 251–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Connolly, N. M., F. Christidis, B. G. L. McKie, L. Boyero & R. G. Pearson, 2007. Patterns of diversity of the Wet Tropics: Patterns and Processes. In: Stork, N. & S. Turton (eds.), Living in a Dynamic Tropical Landscape. Blackwell, London, UK (in press).Google Scholar
  9. Davies, P. E. & M. Nelson, 1993. The effect of steep slope logging on fine sediment infiltration into the beds of ephemeral and perennial streams of Dazzle Range, Tasmania, Australia. Journal of Hydrology 150: 481–504.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Davies-Colley, R. J., J. M. Quinn, C. W. Hickey & P. A. Ryan, 1992. Effects of clay discharges on streams. 1. Optical properties and epilithon. Hydrobiologia 248: 215–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Doeg, T. J. & G. A. Milledge, 1991. Effect of experimentally increasing concentrations of suspended sediment on macroinvertebrate drift. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 42: 519–526.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Donohue, I. & K. Irvine, 2004. Size-specific effects of increased sediment loads on gastropod communities in Lake Tanganyika, Africa. Hydrobiologia 522: 337–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gammon, J. R., 1970. The Effect of Inorganic Sediment on Stream Biota. United States Environmental Protection Agency, Water pollution control research series 18050 DWC 12/70. 141p.Google Scholar
  14. Gayraud, S., E. Herouin & M. Philippe, 2002. The clogging of stream beds: A review of mechanisms and consequences on habitats and macroinvertebrate communities. Bulletin Francais de la Pech et de la Pisciculture (365–66): 339–355.Google Scholar
  15. Graham, E., 1990. Siltation of stone-surface periphyton in rivers by clay-sized particles from low concentrations in suspension. Hydrobiologia 199:107–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Greenland, D. J. & R. Lal, 1977. Soil erosion in the humid tropics: The need for action and the need for research. In Greenland D.J. & R. Lal (eds.), Soil conservation and management in the humid tropics. John Wiley & Sons, NY: 261–265.Google Scholar
  17. Growns, I. O. & J. A. Davis, 1994. Effects of forestry activities (clearfelling) on stream macroinvertebrate fauna in south-western Australia. Australian Journal of Marine & Freshwater Research 45: 963–975.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hellawell, J., 1986. Biological Indicators of Freshwater Pollution and Environmental Management. Elsevier Applied Science Publishers, London and New York: 546 pp.Google Scholar
  19. Kreutzweiser, D. P., S. S. Capell & K. P. Good, 2005. Effects of fine sediment inputs from a logging road on stream insect communities: a large-scale experimental approach in a Canadian headwater stream. Aquatic Ecology 39: 55–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lemly, A. D., 1982. Modification of benthic insect communities in polluted streams: combined effects of sedimentation and nutrient enrichment. Hydrobiologia 87: 229–245.Google Scholar
  21. Lenat, D. R., 1984. Agriculture and stream water quality: a biological evaluation of erosion control practices. Environmental Management 8: 333–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lenat, D. R., D. L. Penrose & K. W. Eagleson, 1981. Variable effects of sediment addition on stream benthos. Hydrobiologia 79: 187–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. McClelland, W. T. & M. A. Brusven, 1980. Effects of sedimentation on the behaviour and distribution of riffle insects in a laboratory stream. Aquatic Insects 2: 161–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Milner, N. J., J. Scullion P. A. Carling & D. T. Crisp, 1981. The effects of discharge on sediment dynamics and consequent effects on invertebrates and salmonids in upland rivers. Advances in Applied Biology 6: 153–220.Google Scholar
  25. Newcombe, C. P. & D. D. MacDonald, 1991. Effect of suspended sediments on aquatic ecosystems. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 11: 72–82.Google Scholar
  26. Nuttall, P. M., & G. H. Bielby, 1973. The effect of China-clay wastes on stream invertebrates. Environmental Pollution 5: 77–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Pearson, R. G. & N. M. Connolly, 2000. Nutrient enhancement, food quality and community dynamics in a tropical rainforest stream. Freshwater Biology 43: 31–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Quinn, J. M., R. J. Davies-Colley, C. W. Hickey, M. L. Vickers & P. A. Ryan, 1992. Effects of clay discharges on streams 2. Benthic invertebrates. Hydrobiologia 248: 235–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Rabeni, C. F., K. E. Doisy & L. D. Zweig, 2005. Stream invertebrate community functional responses to deposited sediment. Aquatic Sciences 67: 395–402.Google Scholar
  30. Rier, S. T. & D. K. King, 1996. Effects of inorganic sedimentation and riparian clearing on benthic community metabolism in an agriculturally disturbed stream. Hydrobiologia 339: 111–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rosenberg, D.M. & A.P. Weins, 1975. Experimental sediment addition studies on the Harris River, N.W.T., Canada: the effect on macroinvertebrate drift. Verhandlungen, internationale Vereingung für theoretische und angewandte Limnologie 19: 1568–1574.Google Scholar
  32. Rosser, Z., 1998. The Role of Disturbance in Community Dynamics and Structuring of Tropical Rainforest Stream Communities. PhD Thesis, Department of Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia: 254 pp.Google Scholar
  33. Rosser, Z. & R. G. Pearson, 1995. Responses of rock fauna to physical disturbance in two Australian tropical rainforest streams. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 14: 183–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Ryan, P. A., 1991. Environmental effects of sediment on New Zealand streams: a review. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 25: 207–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Ryder, G. I., 1989. Experimental Studies on the Effects of Fine Sediment on Lotic Invertebrates. PhD Thesis, Department of Zoology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand: 216 pp.Google Scholar
  36. Schofield, K. A., C. M. Pringle & J. L. Meyer, 2004. Effects of increased bedload on algal- and detrital- based stream food webs: Experimental manipulation of sediment and macroconsumers. Limnology and Oceanography 49: 900–909.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Sorensen, D.L., M.M. McCarthy, E.J. Middlebrook & D.B. Porcella, 1977. Suspended and Dissolved Solids Effects on Freshwater Biota: A Review. United States Environmental Protection Agency. 600/3-77-042.Google Scholar
  38. Suren, A. M. & I. A. Jowett, 2001. Effects of deposited sediment on invertebrate drift: an experimental study. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 35: 725–737.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Tracey, J. G., 1982. The Vegetation of the Humid Tropical Region of North Queensland. CSIRO, Melbourne: 124 pp.Google Scholar
  40. Trayler, K. M. & J. A. Davis, 1998. Forestry impacts and the vertical distribution of stream invertebrates in south-western Australia. Freshwater Biology 40: 331–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Wagener, S. M. & J. D. LaPerriere, 1985. Effects of placer mining on the invertebrate communities of interior Alaska streams. Freshwater Invertebrate Biology 4: 208–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Weber, P. K. & R. Post, 1985. Aquatic Habitat Assessments in Mined and Unmined Portios of the Birch Creek Watershed. Technical report 85-2. Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Juneau, Alaska: 65 pp.Google Scholar
  43. Wellman, J. C., D. L. Combs & S. B. Cook, 2000. Long-term impacts of bridge and culvert construction or replacement on fish communities and sediment characteristics of streams. Journal of Freshwater Ecology 15: 317–328.Google Scholar
  44. Wood, P. J. & P. D. Armitage, 1997. Biological effects of fine sediment in the lotic environment. Environmental Management 21: 203–217.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wood, P. J., J. Toone, M. T. Greenwood & P. D. Armitage, 2005. The response of four lotic macroinvertebrate taxa to burial by sediments. Archiv fur Hydrobiologie 163: 145–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wood, P. J., A. R. Vann & P. J. Wanless, 2001. The response of Melampophylax mucoreus (Hagen) (Trichoptera: Limnephilidae) to rapid sedimentation. Hydrobiologia 455: 183–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Yamada, H. & F. Nakamura, 2002. Effect of fine sediment deposition and channel works on periphyton biomass in the Makomanai River, Northern Japan. River Research and Applications 18: 481–493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Zar, J.H., 1999. Biostatistical Analysis. 4th edn. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: 663 pp + Appendices.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Australian Centre for Tropical Freshwater ResearchJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.School of Marine and Tropical BiologyJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  3. 3.Environmental Protection AgencyNorthern RegionTownsvilleAustralia

Personalised recommendations