Influences of riparian canopy on aquatic communities in high desert streams of eastern Oregon Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/7h149s67m

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  • Because riparian canopy controls most energy inputs to stream ecosystems, it directly affects the structure of aquatic food webs and the ecological processes that govern interactions among trophic levels. This study addresses the interdependence among riparian canopy, benthic community structure, and the carrying capacity of high desert streams for salmonid fishes. In streams in the lower John Day River Basin in eastern Oregon, algal, invertebrate, and fish communities were compared in reaches with varying densities of riparian canopy. Water temperatures varied with the density and upstream extent of canopy. Densely canopied sites were cool, while sites with high irradiances had temperatures exceeding the upper lethal limit for salmonids. Periphyton and grazer biomasses were greater in well-lighted sites, but 90% of grazer biomass consisted of Dicosmoecus gilvipes, a large caddisfly inedible by juvenile trout. Warmer water increased metabolic demands for salmonids, while the overwhelming dominance of Dicosmoecus in open sites shifted energy flow away from trout and shrunk their food base. High water temperatures, however, provided suitable habitat for many warmwater fishes which would otherwise not enter tributaries of this size. At higher elevation study sites in Camp Creek, light levels were higher and less variable than at the lower sites. Periphyton and invertebrate abundances were not correlated with irradiance. Rather, periphyton was maintained at low levels by grazers, particularly Dicosmoecus and snails. Manipulations of fish densities in enclosures showed that trout and dace had no negative impacts on numbers of invertebrate prey, and that grazers played a larger role in regulating lower trophic levels than did fish. Dicosmoecus acted as a keystone species in the benthic food web of Camp Creek by simultaneously influencing the trophic level both below and above its own. When irradiance was experimentally reduced under artificial canopies, periphyton standing crops were not different from those in open control pools after 4 wks. However, grazers were more abundant in open pools. The cropping of periphyton to uniform levels in both sunlight and shade indicated that mobile grazers targeted sites of varying productivities. Comparisons between benthic communities in Camp Creek and in a densely canopied reference stream suggested that benthic community structure shifted to accommodate changes in energy resources that occur when canopy density is altered.
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