Using Bacterial Growth on Insects to Assess Nutrient Impacts in Streams
A combination field and laboratorystudy was conducted to evaluate the ability of arecently developed bioindicator to detect detrimentalnutrient conditions in streams. The method utilizesbacterial growth on aquatic insects to determinenutrient impacts. Field investigations indicated thatelevated concentrations of nitrate and phosphate wereassociated with growth of filamentous bacteria oninsect body surfaces, and that there was a significantreduction in the density of major insect taxa in thenutrient-enriched stream reaches. Laboratoryinvestigations confirmed a strong linkage betweenbacterial growth and reduced survival of insects. Survival was examined for insects with bacterialinfestation ranging from 0% to greater than 50%coverage of the body surface. A threshold forcatastrophic mortality occurred at about 25% bodycoverage; there were few survivors above that amount. Based on these findings, the diagnostic endpoint forthe bioindicator is 25% body coverage by bacterialgrowth, a level that signifies major impacts and isalso easy to detect visually. This study providesadditional evidence that the insect-bacteriabioindicator is a reliable tool for assessing nutrientimpacts on stream macroinvertebrate communities. Thebioindicator should prove useful for identifyingnutrient-impacted sites as well as monitoring thesuccess of management actions to improve water quality.
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