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

Mullen, Caroline (2016). An investigation into the effects of drought and drought recovery on macroinvertebrate communities. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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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: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Life & Environmental Sciences
School or Department: School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Funders: Natural Environment Research Council
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GC Oceanography


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