In this paper, we report the sizes and distributional orientation of woody debris in a headwater rainforest stream in the Luquillo Experimental Forest (LEF), Puerto Rico. We also provide results of a 4-month study of a wood addition experiment designed to increase cover for benthic macroinvertebrates (freshwater shrimp). We added branch-sized woody debris to 20 pools in three streams. We trapped four species of freshwater shrimp (two species of benthic detritivores and two predatory shrimp species) during each of the 4 months following wood additions. An analysis of pool morphology (maximum depth, surface area and volume) provided a useful predictor of shrimp abundances. In general, numbers of shrimps increased with sizes of stream pools. A repeated measures ANOVA demonstrated no effect of woody debris additions on total numbers of shrimp per pool area. Two detritivore species (Atya lanipes, a filter feeder and Xiphocaris elongata, a shredder) decreased in abundance with increased woody debris and there was no statistical relationship between woody debris additions and predators (Macrobrachium carcinus and M. crenulatum). Small woody debris additions may have altered flow velocities that were important to filter-feeding Atya at the microhabitat scale, although the overall velocities within pools were not altered by wood additions. Lower numbers of Atya and Xiphocaris in two of the three streams may result from the occurrence of two predaceous fishes (American eel and mountain mullet) and more predatory Macrobrachium in these streams. One likely interpretation of the results of this study is that the stream pools in these study reaches had sufficient habitat structure provided by numerous rock crevices (among large rocks and boulders) to provide refuge from predators. Addition of woody debris did not add significantly to the existing structure. These results may not apply to stream channels with sand and gravel substrata where crevices and undercut banks are lacking and where woody debris often plays a major role by providing structure and refuge.
Additional publication details
On the relative importance of pool morphology and woody debris to distributions of shrimp in a Puerto Rican headwater stream