Nearly 400 rock rip-rap grade control structures (hereafter GCS) were recently placed in streams of western Iowa, USA to reduce streambank erosion and protect bridge infrastructure and farmland. In this region, streams are characterized by channelized reaches, highly incised banks and silt and sand substrates that normally support low macroinvertebrate abundance and diversity. Therefore, GCS composed of rip-rap provide the majority of coarse substrate habitat for benthic macroinvertebrates in these streams. We sampled 20 sites on Walnut Creek, Montgomery County, Iowa to quantify macroinvertebrate assemblage characteristics (1) on GCS rip-rap and at sites located (2) 5-50 m upstream of GCS, (3) 5-50 m downstream of GCS and (4) at least 1 km from any GCS (five sites each). Macroinvertebrate biomass, numerical densities and diversity were greatest at sites with coarse substrates, including GCS sites and one natural riffle site and relatively low at remaining sites with soft substrates. Densities of macroinvertebrates in the orders Ephemeroptera, Trichoptera, Diptera, Coleoptera and Acariformes were abundant on GCS rip-rap. Increases in macroinvertebrate biomass, density and diversity at GCS may improve local efficiency of breakdown of organic matter and nutrient and energy flow, and provide enhanced food resources for aquatic vertebrates. However, lack of positive macroinvertebrate responses immediately upstream and downstream of GCS suggest that positive effects might be restricted to the small areas of streambed covered by GCS. Improved understanding of GCS effects at both local and ecosystem scales is essential for stream management when these structures are present. Copyright ?? 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Additional publication details
Effects of grade control structures on the macroinvertebrate assemblage of an agriculturally impacted stream