Effect of streambed substrate on macroinvertebrate biodiversity

  • Xuehua DuanEmail author
  • Zhaoyin Wang
  • Shimin Tian
Research Article


Macroinvertebrates are important components of stream ecosystems, and are often used as indicator species for the assessment of river ecology. Numerous studies have shown that substrate is the primary physical environmental variable affecting the taxa richness and density of macroinvertebrates. The aim of this work is to study the effects of the characteristics of streambed substrate, such as grain size, shape, and roughness, on the composition and biodiversity of macroinvertebrates. A field experiment was done on the Juma River, a second-order mountain stream in northern China. Substrata of cobbles, hewn stones, pebbles, coarse sand, and fine sand were used to replace the original gravel and sand bed in a stretch of 30 m in length. The sampling results indicated that the macroinvertebrate assemblage is significantly affected by the grain size, porosity and interstitial dimension of the substrate, while it is rarely affected by the shape and the surface roughness of the experimental substrata. Macroinvertebrate compositions in cobbles and hewn stones were stable and changed least over time. The taxa richness and density of individuals in the substrata of cobbles, hewn stones, and pebbles are much higher than in those of the coarse sand and fine sand.


Macroinvertebrates taxa richness substrate biodiversity 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Karr J R. Defining and measuring river health. Freshwater Biology, 1999, 41: 221–234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Plafkin J L, Barbour M T, Porter K D, Gross S K, Hughes R M. Rapid Bioassessment Protocols for Use in Streams and Rivers: Benthic Macroinvertebrates and Fish. U. S. Environmental Protection Agency Report EPA/444/4-89-001, 1989Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Resh V H, Jackson J K. Rapid assessment approaches to biomontoring using benthic macroinvertabrates. In: Rosenberg D M, Resh V H, eds. Freshwater Biomontoring and Benthic Macroinvertabrates. New York: Chapman & Hall, 1993Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Smith M J, Kay W R, Edward D H D, et al. AusRivAS: Using macroinvertebrates to assess ecological condition of rivers in Western Australia. Freshwater Biology, 1999, 41: 269–282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Arunachalam M K, Nair K C M, Vijverberg J, Kortmulder K, Suriyanaraynan H. Substrate selection and seasonal variation in densities of invertebrates in stream pools of a tropical river. Hydrobiologia, 1991, 213: 141–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Reice S R. The role of substratum in benthic macroinvertebrate microdistribution and litter decomposition in a woodland stream. Ecology, 1980, 61: 580–590CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Beisel J N, Usseglio-Polatera P, Thomas S, Moreteau J C. Stream community structure in relation to spatial variation: The influence of mesohabitat characteristics. Hydrobiologia, 1998, 389: 73–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Erman D C, Erman N A. The response of stream invertebrates to substrate size and heterogeneity. Hydrobiologia, 1984, 108: 75–82Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Alexander S F, Allan J D. The importance of predation, substrate and spatial refugia in determining lotic insect distributions. Oecologia, 1984, 64(3): 306–313CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Cobb D G, Galloway T D, Flannagan J F. Effects of discharge and substrate stability on density and species composition of stream insects. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 1992, 49: 1788–1795CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Verdonschot P F M. Hydrology and substrates: Determinants of oligochaete distribution in lowland streams (The Netherlands). Hydrobiologia, 2001, 463: 249–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Dalian Fisheries University, ed. Freshwater Biology (1st Vol: Taxology). Beijing: China Agriculture Press, 1982, (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Liang X Q, Fang J Z, Yang H Q. Hydrobiology (Configuration and Classification). Beijing: China Agriculture Press, 1995, (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Liu Y Y, Zhang W Z, Wang Y X. Economic Fauna of China: Freshwater Mollusk. Beijing: Science Press, 1979, (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Morse J C, Yang L F, Tian L X. Aquatic Insects of China Useful for Monitoring Water Quality. Nanjing: Hohai University Press, 1994Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Shannon C E, Weaver W J. The Mathematical Theory of Communication. Urbana, USA: University of Illinois, 1949, 29–117Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Wang Z Y, Cheng D S, He Y P, Wang H Z. A study on the ecological functions of step-pool system in mountain streams. Advance in Earth Science, 2006, 21(4): 409–416 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Margalef D R. Information theory in ecology. General Systems, 1958, 3: 36–71Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Poole R W. An Introduction to Quantitative Ecology. New York: McGraw Hill, 1974Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Reice S R. Experimental disturbance and the maintenance of species diversity in a stream community. Oecologia, 1985, 67(1): 90–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Downes B J, Lake P S, Schreiber E S G, Glaister A. Habitat structure, resources and diversity: The separate effects of surface roughness and macroalgae on stream invertebrates. Oecologia, 2000, 123: 569–581CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Higher Education Press 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Hydraulic EngineeringTsinghua UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.International Research and Training Center on Erosion and SedimentationBeijingChina

Personalised recommendations