Headwater streams export organisms and other materials to receiving streams, and macroinvertebrate drift can shape colonization dynamics in downstream reaches while providing food for downstream consumers. Spring-time drift and organic matter export was measured once monthly (February–May) over a 24-h period near the outlets of 12 eastern Kentucky (USA) streams to document and explore factors governing downstream transport. We compared drift measures as loads (day−1) and concentrations (volume−1) including drift density, biomass, richness, composition, and particulate organic matter across catchment area, month, reach scale factors, and network proximity. Aquatic invertebrate drift densities were roughly 10 times greater than terrestrial invertebrate densities; aquatic richness ranged from 18 to 45 taxa with Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, Trichoptera, and Diptera genera dominating drift sample richness and abundance. Ordination revealed that assemblages clustered by month and catchment area; organic matter exports (loads or concentrations) also varied by month and catchment area factors. While drift measures were correlated with catchment area and sample date, local factors (e.g., substrate composition, riffle length, channel slope, and network proximity) were generally non-influential. The findings can be used to inform preservation and restoration strategies where headwater streams serve as sources of colonizers and provide food subsidies to receiving streams.
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This study was conducted as part of EPA’s Regional Research Partnership Program. We thank R. Pomponio and J. Forren (US EPA Region 3) and M. Bagley (US EPA ORD, Cincinnati) for programmatic support. E. D’Amico (Dynamac, Inc.) provided GIS support. Previous versions of the manuscript were improved by L. Reynolds and K. Krock (US EPA Region 3) and two anonymous reviewers. We would also like to thank C. Barton and the University of Kentucky’s Robinson Forest Research Committee for logistical support, and field assistance from M. Compton, M. Vogel, K. Howard, A. Rogers, S. Stiles, and J. Stermer. Although this research was supported by EPA, the views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views or positions of the EPA or the US government.
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Pond, G.J., Fritz, K.M. & Johnson, B.R. Macroinvertebrate and organic matter export from headwater tributaries of a Central Appalachian stream. Hydrobiologia 779, 75–91 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-016-2800-0
- Headwater streams
- Central Appalachian Mountains
- Aquatic insects