Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera (EPT) species richness is useful for monitoring stream health, but no published studies in Illinois quantitatively document EPT richness or assemblage structure. The objectives of this study were to characterize adult EPT richness and structure and relate these to relative water quality at eight stream sites (160-69,300 km3 area) in the lower Illinois River basin. Adults were ultra-violet light trapped in June, July, and August 1997. Nutrient enrichment by nitrate and nitrite nitrogen was strongly evident, especially in smaller drainages, while critical loss of stable habitat was observed in larger water bodies. Seventy EPT species were identified from 17,889 specimens. Trichoptera were by far the most speciose (41 species), followed by Ephemeroptera (26), and Plecoptera (3). Caddisflies also dominated species richness across sites, contributing 18.0 of the average 28.9 total EPT species collected. Site EPT richness varied significantly (F = 5.51, p = 0.003, df = 7), with smaller drainages supporting greater richness, generally. Differences were also evident for months (F = 21.7, p = 0.0001, df = 2), with June being lower (11.8 average) than either July (20.6) or August (18.1) values. Hilsenhoff biotic index (HBI) scores did not vary significantly across sites (F = 0.7, p = 0.7, df = 7), but were different across months (F = 5.4, p = 0.02, df = 2). June (4.23) and July (4.53) means were not different, but both were lower (of better quality) than August (5.33) scores. The relationship of EPT to HBI scores was not investigated statistically due to problems of sample size and interdependence of monthly samples, but graphical analysis suggested no consistent relationship. This suggested a decoupling of the HBI from the EPT and implied that the gain in taxonomic resolution achieved by using adults outstripped the resolution of the HBI. Use of the HBI to characterize adult aquatic insect communities is discouraged. New state records and range extensions for Ephemeroptera and Trichoptera are presented and possible loss of sensitive Plecoptera in the drainage is discussed.
Additional publication details
Summer Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera (EPT) species richness and community structure in the lower Illinois River basin of Illinois