, Volume 805, Issue 1, pp 399–411 | Cite as

Further insights into the responses of macroinvertebrate species to burial by sediment

  • E. ConroyEmail author
  • J. N. Turner
  • A. Rymszewicz
  • M. Bruen
  • J. J. O’Sullivan
  • D. M. Lawler
  • S. Stafford
  • M. Kelly-Quinn
Primary Research Paper


The impact of fine sediments on both habitat quality and macroinvertebrate communities of riverine systems has been well documented over recent years. However, there is a paucity of studies examining the mechanisms that relate macroinvertebrate sensitivity and responses of individual macroinvertebrate species to burial by sediment. Laboratory-based burial experiments were undertaken to study the response of some EPT species including Baetis rhodani, Ecdyonurus insignis, Rhithrogena semicolorata, Hydropsyche siltalai, Rhyacophila dorsalis and the amphipod Gammarus duebeni to burial. A range of burial conditions were studied which included five sediment fractions at two burial depths. Responses were variable across species and, overall, the ranking of the determinants that impacted on species responses to burial was burial depth > sediment class > species source, with no detectable effect linked to body size. Increased burial depth had the most marked effects on emergence times, while slower escape times were also observed from the finer sediment classes. Species source also influenced responses with some upland species taking longer or failing to emerge from burial. Further mechanistic studies, based on EPT species, are required to enhance our understanding of how and at what level sediment affect species, an essential step in developing pressure-specific biological metrics.


EPT tax Macroinvertebrates Mechanisms Ecological impact 



The authors would like to acknowledge the contribution of discussions with Steve Ormerod, Des Walling, John Quinton and Martin McGarrigle on the SILTFLUX project work. Funding for this research was provided by the Environment Protection Agency, Ireland under the EPA STRIVE Programme (SILTFLUX 2010-W-LS-4).


  1. Allan, J. D., 2004. Landscapes and riverscapes: the influence of land use on stream ecosystems. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 35: 257–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Angradi, T., 1999. Fine sediment and macroinvertebrate assemblages in Appalachian streams: a field experiment with biomonitoring applications. Journal of North American Benthological Society 18: 49–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Armstrong, J. D., P. S. Kemp, G. J. A. Kennedy, M. Ladle & N. J. Milner, 2003. Habitat requirements of Atlantic salmon and brown trout in rivers and streams. Fisheries Research 62: 143–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bilotta, G. S. & R. E. Brazier, 2008. Understanding the influence of suspended solids on water quality and aquatic biota. Water Research 42: 849–861.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bo, T., S. Fenoglio, G. Malacarne, M. Pessino & F. Sgariboldi, 2007. Effects of clogging on stream macroinvertebrates: an experimental approach. Limnologica 37: 186–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Braccia, A. & J. R. Voshell, 2006. Benthic macroinvertebrate fauna in small streams used by cattle in the Blue Ridge mountains, Virginia. Northeastern Naturalist 13: 269–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Braccia, A. & J. R. Voshell, 2007. Benthic macroinvertebrate responses to increasing levels of cattle grazing in Blue Ridge Mountain streams, Virginia, USA. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 131: 185–200.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Bryce, S., G. Lomnicky & P. Kaufmann, 2010. Protecting sediment-sensitive aquatic species in mountain streams through the application of biologically based streambed sediment criteria. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 29: 657–672.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cocchiglia, L., S. Curran, E. Hannigan, P. J. Purcell & M. Kelly-Quinn, 2012. Evaluation of the effects of fine sediment inputs from stream culverts on brown trout egg survival through field and laboratory assessments. Inland Waters 2: 47–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Collins, A. L., P. S. Naden, D. A. Sear, J. I. Jones, I. D. L. Foster & K. Morrow, 2011. Sediment targets for informing river catchment management: international experience and prospects. Hydrological Processes 25: 2122–2129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Connolly, N. M. & R. G. Pearson, 2007. The effect of fine sedimentation on tropical stream macroinvertebrate assemblages: a comparison using flow-through artificial stream channels and recirculating mesocosms. Hydrobiologia 592: 423–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Conroy, E., J. N. Turner, A. Rymszewicz, J. J. O’Sullivan, M. Bruen, D. D. Lawler, H. Lally & M. Kelly-Quinn, 2016a. The impact of cattle access on ecological water quality in streams: examples from agricultural catchments within Ireland. Science of the Total Environment 547: 17–29.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Conroy, E., J. N. Turner, A. Rymszewicz, J. J. O’Sullivan, M. Bruen, D. D. Lawler, H. Lally & M. Kelly-Quinn, 2016b. Evaluating the relationship between biotic and sediment metrics using mesocosms and field studies. Science of the Total Environment 568: 1092–1101.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Crisp, D. T., 1993. The ability of UK salmonid Alevins to emerge through a sand layer. Journal of Fish Biology 43: 656–658.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Culp, J. M., F. J. Wrona & R. W. Davies, 1986. Response of stream benthos and drift to fine sediment deposition versus transport. Canadian Journal of Zoology 64: 1345–1351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dobson, M., K. Poynter & H. Cariss, 2000. Case abandonment as a response to burial by Potamophylax cingulatus (Trichoptera: Limnephilidae) larvae. Aquatic Insects 22: 99–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Donohue, I. & K. Irvine, 2003. Effects of sediment particle size composition on survivorship of benthic invertebrates from Lake Tanganyika, Africa. Archiv fur Hydrobiologie 157: 131–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ellis, M. M., 1936. Erosion silt as a factor in aquatic environments. Ecology 17: 29–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Evans, D., C. Gibson & R. Russell, 2006. Sediment loads and sources in heavily modified Irish catchments: a move towards informed management strategies. Geomorphology 79: 93–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gaufin, A. R., R. Clubb & R. Newell, 1974. Studies on the tolerance of aquatic insects to low oxygen concentrations. The Great Basin Naturalist 34: 45–59.Google Scholar
  21. Gibbins, C., E. Scott, C. Soulsby & I. McEwan, 2005. The relationship between sediment mobilisation and the entry of Baetis mayflies into the water column in a laboratory flume. Hydrobiologia 533: 115–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gjerlov, C., A. G. Hildrew & J. I. Jones, 2003. Mobility of stream invertebrates in relation to disturbance and refugia: a test of habitat templet theory. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 22: 207–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Greig, S. M., D. A. Sear & P. A. Carling, 2005. The impact of fine sediment accumulation on the survival of incubating salmon progeny: implications for sediment management. Science of the Total Environment 344: 241–258.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Hanquet, D., M. Legalle, S. Garbage & R. Céréghino, 2004. Ontogenetic microhabitat shifts in stream invertebrates with different biological traits. Archiv für Hydrobiologie 160: 329–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Harrison, E. T., R. H. Norris & S. N. Wilkinson, 2007. The impact of fine sediment accumulation on benthic macroinvertebrates: implications for river management. In Proceedings of the 5th Australian Stream Management Conference. Australian Rivers: Making a Difference. Charles Sturt University, Thurgoona: 139–144.Google Scholar
  26. Harrod, T. R. & F. D. Theurer, 2002. Sediment. In Haygarth, P. M. & S. C. Jarvis (eds), Agriculture, Hydrology and Water Quality. CAB International, Wallingford, UK: 155–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Heywood, M. J. T. & D. E. Walling, 2007. The sedimentation of salmonid spawning gravel in the Hampshire Avon catchment, UK: implications for the dissolved oxygen content of intragravel water and embryo survival. Hydrological Processes 21: 770–788.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Holomuzki, J. R. & B. J. Biggs, 2003. Sediment texture mediates high-flow effects on lotic macro-invertebrates. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 22: 542–553.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Holzenthal, R. W., R. J. Blahnik, A. L. Prather & K. M. Kjer, 2007. Order Trichoptera Kirby, 1813 (Insecta), Caddisflies. Zootaxa 1668: 639–698.Google Scholar
  30. Hynes, H., 1970. The ecology of stream insects. Annual Review of Entomology 15: 25–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jakob, C., C. T. Robinson & U. Uehlinger, 2003. Longitudinal effects of experimental floods on stream benthos downstream from a large dam. Aquatic Sciences 65: 223–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Jones, J., J. Murphy, A. Collins, D. Sear, P. Naden & P. Armitage, 2012. The impact of fine sediment on macro-invertebrates. River Research and Applications 28: 1055–1071.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kaller, M. & K. Hartman, 2004. Evidence of a threshold level of fine sediment accumulation for altering benthic macroinvertebrate communities. Hydrobiologia 518: 95–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kaufmann, P. R., D. P. Larsen & J. M. Faustini, 2009. Bed stability and sedimentation associated with human disturbances in Pacific Northwest streams. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 45: 434–459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kemp, P., D. Sear, A. Collins, P. Naden & I. Jones, 2011. The impacts of fine sediment on riverine fish. Hydrological processes 25: 1800–1821.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kibichii, S., H. B. Feeley, J. R. Baars & M. Kelly-Quinn, 2015. The influence of water quality on hyporheic invertebrate communities in agricultural catchments. Marine and Freshwater Research 66: 805–814.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 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
  38. Lamouroux, N., S. Doledec & S. Gayraud, 2004. Biological traits of stream macroinvertebrate communities: effects of microhabitat, reach, and basin filters. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 23: 449–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lancaster, J. & A. G. Hildrew, 1993. Characterizing in-stream flow refugia. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 50: 1663–1675.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Larsen, S. & S. J. Ormerod, 2010. Low-level effects of inert sediments on temperate stream invertebrates. Freshwater Biology 55: 476–486.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Larsen, S., I. P. Vaughan & S. J. Ormerod, 2009. Scale-dependent effects of fine sediments on temperate headwater invertebrates. Freshwater Biology 54: 203–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Larsen, S., G. Pace & S. J. Ormerod, 2011. Experimental effects of sediment deposition on the structure and function of macroinvertebrate assemblages in temperature streams. River Research and Applications 27: 257–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Lemly, A., 1982. Modification of benthic insect communities in polluted streams: combined effects of sedimentation and nutrient enrichment. Hydrobiologia 87: 229–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. MacNeil, C., J. T. Dick, E. Bigsby, R. W. Elwood, W. I. Montgomery, C. N. Gibbins & D. W. Kelly, 2002. The validity of the Gammarus: asellus ratio as an index of organic pollution: abiotic and biotic influences. Water Research 36: 75–84.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Maridet, L. & M. Phillippe, 1995. Influence of substrate characteristics on the vertical distribution of stream macroinvertebrates in the hyporheic zone. Folia Facultatis Scientiaram Naturalium Universitstis Masarykianae Brunensis, Biologia 91: 101–105.Google Scholar
  46. Matthaei, C., F. Weller, D. Kelly & C. Townsend, 2006. Impacts of fine sediment addition to tussock, pasture, dairy and deer farming in New Zealand. Freshwater Biology 51: 2154–2172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Nuttall, P. M. & G. H. Bielby, 1973. The effect of china-clay wastes on stream invertebrates. Environmental Pollution 5: 77–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. O’Connor, W. C. K. & T. E. Andrew, 1998. The effects of siltation on Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar L., embryos in the river Bush. Fisheries Management and Ecology 5: 393–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Ormerod, S., M. Dobson, A. Hildrew & C. Townsend, 2010. Multiple stressors in freshwater ecosystems. Freshwater Biology 55: 1–4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Owens, P., R. Batalla, A. Collins, B. Gomez, D. Hicks, A. Horowitz, G. Kondolf, M. Marden, M. Page, D. Peacock, E. Petticrew, W. Salomons & N. Trustrum, 2005. Finegrained sediment in river systems: environmental significance and management issues. River Research and Applications 21: 693–717.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Poole, A. E., D. Bradley, R. Salazar & D. W. MacDonald, 2013. Optimizing agri-environment schemes to improve river health and conservation value. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 181: 157–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Riek, E., 1973. The classification of the Ephemeroptera. In Proceedings of the First International Conference on Ephemeroptera: 160–178.Google Scholar
  53. 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
  54. Robinson, C. T. & G. W. Minshall, 1986. Effects of disturbance frequency on stream benthic community structure in relation to canopy cover and season. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 5: 237–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Robinson, C. T., G. W. Minshall & S. R. Rushforth, 1990. Seasonal colonization dynamics of macroinvertebrates in an Idaho stream. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 9: 240–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Robinson, C. T., U. Uehlinger & M. T. Monaghan, 2003. Effects of a multi-year experimental flood regime on macroinvertebrates downstream of a reservoir. Aquatic Sciences 65: 210–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Ryan, P. A., 1991. Environmental effects of sediment on New Zealand streams: a review. New Zealand Journal Marine Freshwater Research 25: 207–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Sarriquet, P. E., P. Bordenave & P. Marmonier, 2007. Effects of bottom sediment restoration on interstitial habitat characteristics and benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages in a headwater stream. River Research and Applications 23: 815–828.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Sear, D. A., L. B. Frostick, G. Rollinson & T. Lisle, 2008. The significance and mechanics of fine-sediment infiltration and accumulation in gravel spawning beds. In Sear, D. & P. Devries (eds), Salmon Spawning Habitat in Rivers: Physical Controls, Biological Responses and Approaches to Remediation. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda: 149–174.Google Scholar
  60. Soulsby, C., A. F. Youngson, H. J. Moir & I. A. Malcolm, 2001. Fine sediment influence on salmonid spawning habitat in a lowland agricultural stream: a preliminary assessment. Science of the Total Environment 265: 295–307.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  61. Strayer, D. L. & D. Dudgeon, 2010. Freshwater biodiversity conservation: recent progress and future challenges. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 29: 344–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Stuart, A., 1958. The efficiency of adaptive structures in the nymph of Rhithrogena semicolorata (Curtis) (Ephemeroptera). Journal of Experimental Biology 35: 27–38.Google Scholar
  63. Sullivan, S. & M. Watzin, 2010. Towards a functional understanding of the effects of sediment aggradation on stream fish condition. River Research and Applications 26: 1298–1314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Suren, A. M., M. L. Martin & B. J. Smith, 2005. Short-term effects of high suspended sediments on six common New Zealand stream invertebrates. Hydrobiologia 548: 67–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Sutherland, A. B., J. M. Culp & G. A. Benoy, 2012. Evaluation of Deposited Sediment and Macroinvertebrate Metrics Used to Quantify Biological Response to Excessive Sedimentation in Agricultural Streams. Environmental Management 50: 50–63.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  66. Usseglio-Polatera, P., M. Bournaud, P. Richoux & H. Tachet, 2000. Biological and ecological traits of benthic freshwater macroinvertebrates: relationships and definition of groups with similar traits. Freshwater Biology 43: 175–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Vorosmarty, C. J., P. B. McIntyre, M. O. Gessner, D. Dudgeon, A. Prusevich, P. Green, S. Glidden, S. E. Bunn, C. A. Sullivan & C. R. Liermann, 2010. Global threats to human water security and river biodiversity. Nature 467: 555–561.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  68. Walling, D. E., A. Collins & R. Stroud, 2008. Tracing suspended sediment and particulate phosphorus sources in catchments. Journal of Hydrology 350: 274–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Waters, T., 1995. Sediment in Streams: Sources, Biological Effects and Controls. AFS Monograph 7. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda.Google Scholar
  70. Wipfli, M. S., J. S. Richardson & R. J. Naiman, 2007. Ecological linkages between headwaters and downstream ecosystems: transport of organic matter, invertebrates, and wood down headwater channels. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 43: 72–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Wood, P. J. & P. D. Armitage, 1997. Biological effects of fine sediment in the lotic environment. Environmental Management 21: 203–217.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  72. 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
  73. 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
  74. Wood, P. J., A. J. Boulton, S. Little & R. Stubbington, 2010. Is the hyporheic zone a refugium for aquatic macroinvertebrates during severe low flow conditions? Fundamental and Applied Limnology 176: 377–390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Zhang, Y., A. Collins, N. Murdoch, D. Lee & P. Naden, 2014. Cross sector contributions to river pollution in England and Wales: updating waterbody scale information to support policy delivery for the Water Framework Directive. Environmental Science & Policy 42: 16–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. Conroy
    • 1
    Email author
  • J. N. Turner
    • 2
  • A. Rymszewicz
    • 3
  • M. Bruen
    • 3
  • J. J. O’Sullivan
    • 3
  • D. M. Lawler
    • 4
  • S. Stafford
    • 1
  • M. Kelly-Quinn
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Biology and Environmental ScienceUniversity College DublinDublin 4Ireland
  2. 2.School of Geography and UCD Earth InstituteUniversity College DublinDublin 4Ireland
  3. 3.UCD Dooge Centre for Water Resources Research, School of Civil, Structural and Environmental EngineeringUCD Earth Institute, University College DublinDublin 4Ireland
  4. 4.Centre for Agroecology, Water and ResilienceCoventry UniversityCoventryUK

Personalised recommendations