Environmental Factors Determining the Pre-Restoration Benthic Macroinvertebrate Assemblage In A Stream Used By Cattle
Willey, Katherine Tara
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I investigated the baseline benthic macroinvertebrate community in relation to the environmental conditions in a section of Smith Creek, north of Harrisonburg, VA, prior to restoration. Quantitative benthic macroinvertebrate and environmental samples were collected in April and September 2006 from the Bruce Farm (BR) section of Smith Creek and the nearby Mixed Use (MU) section of Mountain Run. BR had been heavily used for cattle grazing for decades and suffered from sediment, nutrients, and lack of a forested riparian zone. MU had a forested riparian zone, but still received nutrient and sediment inputs from upstream cattle grazing. Visual habitat assessments were performed in September 2006 and were compared to quantitative measures. Benthic macroinvertebrate densities and taxa richness were greater at BR (total density for combined seasons = 52,438; taxa richness for both seasons = 84) than MU (total density for combined seasons = 3,982 and taxa richness for both seasons = 63). Biological environmental variables related to nutrients and growth of plants on rocks (ash-free dry mass, chlorophyll a, epilithic biomass) influenced the benthic macroinvertebrate assemblage more than physical environmental variables related to the substrate composition (% fines, % gravel, Traskâ s sorting coefficient). Visual habitat estimates were not as effective as quantitative measures of habitat for explaining the benthic macroinvertebrate assemblage.
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