Physical changes to rivers associated with large dams (e.g., water temperature) directly alter macroinvertebrate assemblages. Large dams also may indirectly alter these assemblages by changing the food resources available to support macroinvertebrate production. We examined the diets of the 4 most common macroinvertebrate taxa in the Colorado River through Glen and Grand Canyons, seasonally, at 6 sites for 2.5 y. We compared macroinvertebrate diet composition to the composition of epilithon (rock and cliff faces) communities and suspended organic seston to evaluate the degree to which macroinvertebrate diets tracked downstream changes in resource availability. Diets contained greater proportions of algal resources in the tailwater of Glen Canyon Dam and more terrestrial-based resources at sites downstream of the 1st major tributary. As predicted, macroinvertebrate diets tracked turbidity-driven changes in resource availability, and river turbidity partially explained variability in macroinvertebrate diets. The relative proportions of resources assimilated by macroinvertebrates ranged from dominance by algae to terrestrial-based resources, despite greater assimilation efficiencies for algal than terrestrial C. Terrestrial resources were most important during high turbidity conditions, which occurred during the late-summer monsoon season (July–October) when tributaries contributed large amounts of organic matter to the mainstem and suspended sediments reduced algal production. Macroinvertebrate diets were influenced by seasonal changes in tributary inputs and turbidity, a result suggesting macroinvertebrate diets in regulated rivers may be temporally dynamic and driven by tributary inputs.
Additional publication details
Macroinvertebrate diets reflect tributary inputs and turbidity-driven changes in food availability in the Colorado River downstream of Glen Canyon Dam