INFLUENCE OF BENTHIC SEDIMENTS ON MACROINVERTEBRATE COMMUNITY STRUCTURE IN AGRICULTURAL HEADWATER STREAMS
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Aquatic macroinvertebrates of channelized headwater streams in agricultural landscapes are exposed to alterations in chemistry and physical characteristics of benthic sediments. These habitat alterations are known to influence communities of aquatic macroinvertebrates. Benthic sediments can have a wide range of impacts and influences on aquatic macroinvertebrates. I hypothesized that sediments would play a significant role in determining macroinvertebrate community structure within agriculturally dominated headwater streams. I evaluated the influences of sediment chemistry characteristics and physical characteristics on aquatic macroinvertebrate communities in Cedar Creek, Indiana and Michigan, and the Upper Big Walnut Creek, Ohio, during 2017 and 2018. Macroinvertebrates were collected twice per year using artificial substrate and leaf pack samplers and identified to the family level. Sediments were sampled two times per year and analyzed for seven physical characteristics and twenty sediment chemistry characteristics. Principle component analyses were used to create axes that are indicators of gradients of sediment chemistry and physical characteristics that occur among the samples. Macroinvertebrate community metrics used in the analyses included abundance, Shannon Diversity Index, Hilsenhoff Biotic Index scores, Invertebrate Community Index scores, percentage of collector-filters, percentage of scrapers, percentage of Chironomidae and a Berger-Parker Reciprocal Index of dominance. Linear Mixed Effect Model analyses revealed that both sediment chemistry and physical characteristics influence macroinvertebrate community metrics. Aquatic macroinvertebrate abundance was negatively correlated with increasing concentrations of simazine and decreasing concentrations of calcium. Percentages of Chironomidae were positively correlated with increasing percentages of sand and decreasing percentages of clay and decreasing diversity of sediment particle sizes. My data supported the hypothesis that benthic sediments play an important role in determining aquatic macroinvertebrate community structure in headwater streams of agriculturally dominated landscapes. Gradients of chemical characteristics containing simazine and calcium were observed to be negatively correlated with macroinvertebrate abundance. Gradients of physical characteristics including percentages of sand and clay along with the diversity of particle sizes were observed to be positively correlated with percentage of chironomids. My research increases the knowledge that benthic sediments, chemically and physically, can lead to alterations in aquatic macroinvertebrate communities within Midwestern headwater streams.
CEAP (Conservation Effects Assessment Program) 2012
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