Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Biology

Abstract

Streams along the Copper River Delta, southcentral Alaska, exhibit contrasting thermal and hydrologic variability associated with being primarily groundwater-fed (GWF) or surface water-fed (SWF). Groundwater-fed streams are predictable both thermally and hydrologically year round, whereas SWF streams are unpredictable and exhibit more variable thermal and hydrologic regimes. These differences may strongly influence aquatic insect community structure and secondary production. Four streams, two GWF and two SWF, were sampled twice monthly from late April 2013 through August 2013 and once seasonally in fall (September) and early winter (November). Aquatic insect community structure differed markedly in both hydrologic types. Taxa richness was significantly higher in SWF (43) than in GWF (39) streams and non-metric multidimensional scaling of community structure revealed two distinct groups corresponding to the two hydrologic types. Total secondary production was higher in GWF than in SWF streams with Orthocladiinae (Diptera: Chironomidae) representing 56% of insect secondary production in GWF streams. Results from this study have strong implications for aquatic insect communities in GWF and SWF streams because of differing susceptibilities of these systems to the potential effects of climate change. Due to their thermal stability, groundwater-fed streams are less likely to be impacted by climate change, whereas SWF streams are thermally variable and more likely to be influenced. The effects of altered aquatic insect communities can cascade to higher trophic levels such as salmon and ultimately impact stream ecosystem function and the ecosystem services they provide.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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