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An investigation into the effects of drought and drought recovery on macroinvertebrate communities

Mullen, Caroline (2016)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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The effect of drought on freshwater ecosystems is a growing environmental concern. This study aimed to determine the effect of the supra-seasonal 2010-2012 drought on the macroinvertebrate communities and functional feeding groups (FFG) of chalk streams. Three rivers were sampled during and after the drought, three sites were analysed on each river, a perennial control site, a dewatering site (shallow during drought) and a rewetted site (dry during drought). All wetted sites were sampled for macroinvertebrates, algae, velocity and depth monthly. In addition an in-situ experiment investigated grazing rates in dewatering, rewetted and perennial sites and a mesocosm experiment investigated the effect of reduced water velocity and temporary drying on grazing function and macroinvertebrate mortality. Macroinvertebrate data were analysed for structural and functional changes in communities and algal data were analysed for changes of biomass both during drought and recovery. Both found rapid recovery post-drought with high incidence of resilience in the macroinvertebrate communities. Functional recovery was determined by investigating grazing rates in dewatering, rewetted and perennial sites. Algal and macroinvertebrate biomass, and grazing function recovered within a month of rewetting. Despite a rapid recovery of overall biomass and grazing function, FFG results showed delayed effects, and four months following drought differences were still present. Mesocosm experiments showed that macroinvertebrate mortality increased due to dewatering for some species, however slower velocity had little effect. Thus, this study showed that ecological function can return despite changes to macroinvertebrate community structure, indicating that functional redundancy promotes the resilience of chalk stream communities to drought.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Ledger, Mark and Milner, Alexander (Sandy)
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Life & Environmental Sciences
Department:School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Subjects:GC Oceanography
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:7137
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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