Periphyton responses to invertebrate grazing and riparian canopy in three northern California coastal streams

Feminella, JW.; Power, ME.; Resh, VH.

Freshwater Biology 223: 445-457


ISSN/ISBN: 0046-5070
DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2427.1989.tb01117.x
Accession: 018048598

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Field experiments were conducted to examine the impact of grazing invertebrates on periphyton biomass in twenty-one pools across three northern California coastal streams (U.S.A.): Big Sulphur Creek, the Rice Fork of the Eel River, and Big Canyon Creek. Periphyton accrual on artificial substrate titles was compared in each stream between two treatments: those elevated slightly above the stream bottom to reduce access by grazers (= platforms) and those placed directly on the stream bottom to allow access by grazers (= controls). Crawling invertebrate grazers (cased caddisflies and snails) were numerically dominant in each stream (86% of all grazers in Big Sulphur Creek, 61% in the Rice Fork, 84% in Big Canyon Creek). Platforms effectively excluded crawling grazers, but were less effective in excluding swimming mayfly grazers (Baetidae). Periphyton biomass (as AFDM) on tiles was significantly lower on controls compared to platforms for the Rice Fork, an open-canopy stream, and Big Sulphur Creek, a stream with a heterogeneous canopy. In contrast, no grazer impact was found for Big Canyon Creek, a densely shaded stream. Here, extremely low periphyton biomass occured for both treatments throughout the 60 day study. The influence of riparian canopy on periphyton growth (i.e. accrual on platforms), grazer impact on periphyton, and grazer abundance was examined for Big Sulphur Creek. As canopy increased (15-98% cover), periphyton biomass on platforms decreased. In contrast, canopy had little influence on periphyton accrual on controls; apparently, grazers could maintain low periphyton standing crops across the full range of canopy levels. The abundance of one grazer species, the caddisfly Gumaga nigricula, was highest in open, sunlit stream pools; abundance of two other prominent grazers, Helicopsyche borealis (Trichoptera) and Centroptilum convexum (Ephemeroptera), however, was unrelated to canopy.

Periphyton responses to invertebrate grazing and riparian canopy in three northern California coastal streams