Responses of macroinvertebrate communities to long-term flow variability in a Sonoran Desert stream

Ryan A. Sponseller, Nancy Grimm, Andrew J. Boulton, John Sabo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

53 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Current global models predict a hotter and drier climate in the southwestern United States with anticipated increases in drought frequency and severity coupled with changes in flash flood regimes. Such changes would likely have important ecological consequences, particularly for stream and riparian ecosystems already subject to frequent hydrologic disturbance. This study assessed the potential response of aquatic macroinvertebrates to interannual variation in hydrology in a spatially intermittent desert stream (Sycamore Creek, AZ). We compiled data on the recovery of macroinvertebrate communities following spring floods, with successional sequences captured 11 times over a 16-year period (1983-1999). This period encompassed a transition from perennial to intermittent flow in this system, and included a record drought in 1989-1990. Results show that while the size of floods initiating sequences had little explanatory power, changes in macroinvertebrate community structure during postflood succession were closely associated with antecedent flooding and drought. Year-to-year differences in benthic communities integrated taxon-specific responses to antecedent disturbance, including differential resistance to channel drying, use of hyporheic refugia, and variable rates of recovery once stream flow resumed. The long-term consequences of drying on community structure were only evident during later stages of postflood succession, illustrating an interaction between flood and drought recovery processes in this system. Our observations highlight the potential for predicted climate changes in this region to have marked and long-lasting consequences for benthic communities in desert streams.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2891-2900
Number of pages10
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Volume16
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2010

Fingerprint

Drought
macroinvertebrate
desert
drought
Recovery
benthos
Drying
community structure
disturbance
Stream flow
flash flood
Hydrology
refugium
Climate change
Ecosystems
annual variation
streamflow
hydrology
flooding
climate change

Keywords

  • Benthic macroinvertebrates
  • Climate change
  • Disturbance
  • Drought
  • Flood
  • Succession

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry

Cite this

Responses of macroinvertebrate communities to long-term flow variability in a Sonoran Desert stream. / Sponseller, Ryan A.; Grimm, Nancy; Boulton, Andrew J.; Sabo, John.

In: Global Change Biology, Vol. 16, No. 10, 10.2010, p. 2891-2900.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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