Stability of an aquatic macroinvertebrate community in a multiyear hydrologic disturbance regime

A. J. Boulton, C. G. Peterson, Nancy Grimm, S. G. Fisher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

217 Scopus citations


Compared rates and directions of benthic aquatic macroinvertebrate succession following eight spates of varying magnitude that occurred in different seasons over 3 yr in Sycamore Creek, a Sonoran Desert stream. A consistent cycle of seasonal change in assemblage composition occurred each year, little altered by spates. Changes reflected variations in presence or absence rather than relative abundance of taxa. Invertebrate abundance (mostly oligochaetes and mayflies) peaked in spring. "Summer' dominants included the gastropod Physella virgata and the caddisfly larvae Cheumatopsyche arizonensis. Assemblage composition remained relatively consistent during spring over 3 yr when high discharge was prolonged, whereas there was a major change in autumn community structure between 1984-1986, probably reflecting low discharge during a drought in 1986. Drying apparently influenced assemblage composition more than spates, possibly by altering habitat availability and the intensity of biotic interactions as surface stream volume shrank. Assemblage resistance to disturbance by spates was variable. Similarly, resistance of individual common taxa varied within and among taxa, and like assemblage resistance, was not simply a function of spate magnitude or timing (season). Resilience was generally high. Degree of change in assemblage composition declined during succession in all but spring sequences. The two summer sequences had highest initial succession rates (in first 30 d postspate), possibly reflecting higher water temperatures, and also exhibited late-successional increases in succession rate. Factors known to influence ecosystem-level processes such as primary productivity also affected community-level aspects. -Authors

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2192-2207
Number of pages16
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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