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Habitat effects on invertebrate drift in a small trout stream: implications for prey availability to drift-feeding fish

Leung, Elaine S., Rosenfeld, Jordan S., Bernhardt, Joanna R.
Hydrobiologia 2009 v.623 no.1 pp. 113-125
aquatic habitat, community structure, invertebrates, microhabitats, seasonal variation, stream channels, summer, trout, turbulent flow, winter
In this study, we focused on the drivers of micro- and mesohabitat variation of drift in a small trout stream with the goal of understanding the factors that influence the abundance of prey for drift-feeding fish. We hypothesized that there would be a positive relationship between velocity and drift abundance (biomass concentration, mg/m³) across multiple spatial scales, and compared seasonal variation in abundance of drifting terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates in habitats that represent the fundamental constituents of stream channels (pools, glides, runs, and riffles). We also examined how drift abundance varied spatially within the water column. We found no relationship between drift concentration and velocity at the microhabitat scale within individual pools or riffles, suggesting that turbulence and short distances between high- and low-velocity microhabitats minimize changes in drift concentration through settlement in slower velocity microhabitats. There were also minimal differences in summer low-flow drift abundance at the mesohabitat scale, although drift concentration was highest in riffle habitats. Similarly, there was no differentiation of drifting invertebrate community structure among summer samples collected from pools, glides, runs, and riffles. Drift concentration was significantly higher in winter than in summer, and variation in drift within individual mesohabitat types (e.g., pools or riffles) was lower during winter high flows. As expected, summer surface samples also had a significantly higher proportion of terrestrial invertebrates and higher overall biomass than samples collected from within the water column. Our results suggest that turbulence and the short length of different habitat types in small streams tend to homogenize drift concentration, and that spatial variation in drift concentrations may be affected as much by fish predation as by entrainment rates from the benthos.