Washout and recolonization of macroinvertebrates and algae associated with a spring and summer storm were measured at three sites in Ohio's Big Darby Creek Basin. Related factors, such as streamflow magnitude, shear stress, and streamed disturbance were considered when interpreting observed changes in densities and community structure of macroinvertebrates and algae.
During the study, 184 macroinvertebrate taxa and 202 algal taxa were identified. The major taxonomic groups for macroinvertebrates were midges and other true flies (Diptera), caddisflies (Trichoptera), beetles (Coleoptera), mayflies (Ephemeroptera), and stoneflies (Plecoptera). Diatoms were the dominant algae (in terms of percentage of total taxa found) followed by green algae, blue-green algae, euglenoids, golden flagellates, and freshwater red algae.
Streamflows associated with the storm events that occurred during April 6-16 and June 23-July 5, 1994, probably had little effect on streambed elevations, but streambed disturbance was documented in the form of shifts in the median particle-size diameters of the subsurface bed materials. The streamflow magnitudes did not correlate well with the magnitude of observed changes in macroinvertebrate and algal-cell densities, but reductions in macroinvertebrate and algal-cell densities generally did occur.
Local minima of macroinvertebrate density did not generally correspond to the first sample after the storms, but instead lagged by about 1 to 3 weeks. Other biotic factors, such as emergence of Diptera, probably affected the observed mid-July depression in macroinvertebrate densities.
Evaluation of pre-event macroinvertebrate community structure in terms of functional feeding groups and flow-exposure groups showed that, on the basis of percentage of total taxa found, gatherers were the dominant feeding group and flow-facultative taxa were the dominant flow-exposure group. Densities of gatherers decreased from pre-event levels following all the storm events at all sites, whereas flow-facultative and flow-avoiding taxa were significantly reduced only after the summer event at Big and Little Darby Creeks.
Algal-cell densities in the first post-event samples always were lower than pre-event densities; however, the total number of taxa present generally were not statistically different. In four out of five of the first post-event samples, algal-cell densities were only 16 to 26 percent of the pre-event densities. The exception was at Little Darby Creek after the spring event, where only the density of stalked algal cells in the community were significantly reduced. The observed resistance to disturbance of the algal community at Little Darby Creek may have resulted from the relative abundance of the mat-forming blue-green algae Oscillatoria spp. The stalked cells were the most consistently reduced in the post-event-samples, whereas holdfast types (such as Audouinella hermannii) and prostrate epiphytes (such as Cocconeis spp) were the most resistant to washout.
Algal recolonization rates, measured as the change in algal-cell densities over a 7-day period after the summer storm event, ranged from 0.05 to 1.51 billion cells per square meter per day. These recolonization rates are expected to be affected by factors such as nutrients, temperature, amount of canopy, initial post-event algal density, and grazing by macroinvertebrates and fish. On the basis of canopy and nutrient data, one would expect the algal recolonization rates for the three sites in this study to sort in the order observed.