Impacts of drought and crayfish invasion on stream ecosystem structure and function

River Research and Applications
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Abstract

Drought and seasonal drying can be important disturbance events in many small streams, leading to intermittent or isolated habitats. Many small streams contain crayfish populations that are often keystone or dominant species in these systems. I conducted an experiment in stream mesocosms to examine the effects of drought and potential ecological redundancy of a native and invasive crayfish species. I examined the effects of drought (drought or control) and crayfish presence (none, native crayfish Orconectes eupunctus or invasive crayfish Orconectes neglectus) on stream mesocosm structure and function (leaf breakdown, community metabolism, periphyton, sediment and chironomid densities) in a fully factorial design. Each mesocosm contained a deep and shallow section, and drought treatments had surface water present (5-cm depth) in deep sections where tiles and leaf packs were placed. Drought and crayfish presence did not interact for any response variable. Drought significantly reduced leaf breakdown, and crayfish presence significantly increased leaf breakdown. However, the native and invasive crayfish species did not differ significantly in their effects on leaf breakdown. Drought significantly reduced primary production and community respiration overall, whereas crayfish presence did not significantly affect primary production and community respiration. Neither drought nor crayfish presence significantly affected periphyton overall. However, drought significantly reduced autotrophic index (AI), and crayfish presence increased AI. Inorganic sediment and chironomid density were not affected by drought, but both were significantly reduced by crayfish presence. O. eupunctus reduced AI and sediment more than O. neglectus did. Neither drought nor crayfish species significantly affected crayfish growth or survival. Drought can have strong effects on ecosystem function, but weaker effects on benthic structure. Crayfish can have strong effects on ecosystem structure and function regardless of drought. In stream mesocosms, native and invasive crayfish species appeared largely ecologically redundant, although subtle differences in crayfish effects could cascade throughout the food web, and further research is needed to address this question. 

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Impacts of drought and crayfish invasion on stream ecosystem structure and function
Series title River Research and Applications
DOI 10.1002/rra.2747
Volume 30
Issue 10
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Atlanta
Description 9 p.
First page 1309
Last page 1317
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N