Seasonal changes in the distribution and abundance of benthic invertebrates in six headwater streams in central Florida

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Abstract

Seasonal variations in invertebrate assemblages at two sites (upstream and downstream) on six central Florida headwater streams were compared by sampling at quarterly intervals with core and dip net samplers. Two of the streams were reclaimed following phosphate mining (˜6 yr prior to this study), two received runoff from mined lands, and two were disturbed by agriculture and/or residential developments. Physical and chemical characteristics of the reclaimed streams differed markedly from those of the non-reclaimed streams; principal differences between the streams were in current velocity, percent organic matter (POM), Mn, conductivity and alkalinity. Annual mean densities of meiofauna and smaller macrofauna for the 12 stream sites ranged from 20 896 to 175 212 m-2 and the mean for all sites was 56 492 m-2. The reclaimed streams and one of the streams influenced by agriculture had annual means of less than 40 000 m-2, 3- to 5-fold lower than the other streams. Fall and winter core densities were ˜2.4-fold greater than those for spring or summer when drought and low dissolved oxygen prevailed. Meiofauna comprised 68-91% of the core sample invertebrates in reclaimed streams but only 43-62% in the non-reclaimed streams; principal functional groups were: gathering collectors - 61.5%, predators - 19.3% and filtering collectors - 15%. The taxonomic composition of the reclaimed streams was predominated by crustaceans (60-71%) while chironomids and annelids were more abundant (71-92%) in the non-reclaimed streams. Dip net sampling added 21 larger macrofauna species (Odonata, Hemiptera and Coleoptera) to our list of taxa, producing a total of 209 species. Species richness and diversity (H′ and N2) indices were lower in the reclaimed streams, but evenness was more variable. The Czekanowski-Dice-Sørensen similarity index showed that the reclaimed stream sites were quite similar to each other, but differed markedly from the other stream types; there was large variation both within and between seasons. For central Florida headwater streams, drought appears to have a larger influence on invertebrates than the type of land use, however this relationship should be confirmed using streams of similar hydrology.

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