Benthic consumers influence stream ecosystem structure and function, but these interactions depend on environmental context. We experimentally quantified the effects of central stoneroller minnows (Campostoma anomalum (Rafinesque) and Meek's crayfish (Orconectes meeki meeki (Faxon)) on benthic communities using electric exclusion quadrats in Little Mulberry Creek before (June) and during (August) seasonal stream drying. Unglazed ceramic tiles were deployed in June and August to measure periphyton and invertebrate abundance, and leafpack decomposition and primary production were also measured in August. Relationships between stoneroller and crayfish density and the size of consumer effects were evaluated with multiple linear regression models. Average chlorophyll a abundance was greater on exposed than exclusion tiles in August, but not in June. Sediment dry mass, periphyton ash-free dry mass (AFDM), and chironomid densities on tiles did not differ among treatments in either period. Leaf packs decayed faster in exposed than exclusion treatments (kexposed = 0.038 ?? 0.013, kexclusion = 0.007 ?? 0.002), but consumer effects were stronger in some pools than others. Leafpack invertebrate biomass and abundance and tile primary productivity did not differ among treatments. Consumer effects on chlorophyll a were related to crayfish and stoneroller density, and effects on chironomid density were related to stoneroller density. These results contrast with a previous exclusion experiment in Little Mulberry Creek that demonstrated strong consumer effects. The influence of stream drying on consumer effects appears to have been reduced by strong spates, underscoring the importance of conducting multi-year studies to determine the magnitude of variability in ecological interactions. ?? US Government: USGS 2010.
Additional publication details
Environmental conditions and biotic interactions influence ecosystem structure and function in a drying stream