The Savannah River below Hartwell Dam, on the South Carolina-Georgia border, contains at least 206 benthic invertebrate taxa, even though this tailwater undergoes substantial daily fluctuations in water flow, temperature, and dissolved oxygen. Oligochaetes, chironomids, and amphipods dominate the community immediately below the dam. Farther downstream, larger organisms (i.e., Ephemeroptera, Trichoptera, etc.) dominate the benthic community. The high diversity of this system is primarily attributed to the intensive effort we expended to identify invertebrates to species level. We conclude that tailwaters associated with peaking hydropower stations may in fact have the diverse community assemblages found in natural streams and that this has not been recognized by other investigators because the bulk of the fauna is made up of small forms that are easily overlooked. Comparisons of tailwater fauna communities with those in control areas should be limited to rivers of similar size.
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Benthic community of the Savannah River below a peaking hydropower station