Ecology of benthic macroinvertebrates in experimental ponds

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Virginia Tech

I studied life history parameters of 5 taxa of aquatic insects in the orders Ephemeroptera and Odonata, successional patterns over 2 years of pond development, and precision of 15 biological metrics in a series of 6 replicate experimental ponds from March 1989 to April 1990. I determined voltinism, emergence patterns, larval growth rates and annual production for Caenis amica (Ephemeroptera: Caenidae), Callibaetis floridanus (Ephemeroptera: Baetidae), Anax junius (Odonata: Aeshnidae), Gomphus exilis (Odonata: Gomphidae), and Enallagma civile (Odonata: Coenagrionidae). Growth rates ranged from 0.011 to 0.025 mg DW/d for Ephemeroptera and from 0.012 to 0.061 mg DW/d for Odonata. Annual production ranged from 5 to 11 mg DW/sampler/yr for Ephemeroptera and from 10 to 673 mg DW/sampler/yr for Odonata.

Comparison of the benthic macroinvertebrate community at the end of year 1 to the benthic macroinvertebrate community at the end of year 2 showed no significant differences for community summary measures (total density, taxa richness, diversity, Bray-Curtis similarity index); however, some individual taxa densities were significantly lower at the end of year 2. Physicochemical parameters measured indicated that the ponds were oligotrophic. Submerged macrophytes colonized and became established in most of the ponds during year 2. A few noninsect taxa were not present in expected numbers, probably due to lack of efficient dispersal mechanisms.

Fifteen metrics were analyzed by a statistical procedure that indicates the percent change that must occur (detection limit) to detect true differences between two means. The metrics with the lowest detection limits (usually < 20%) were taxa richness, EOT index (number of taxa in the orders Ephemeroptera, Odonata, and Trichoptera), proportion of Chironominae/Orthocladiinae, and proportion of collector-gatherers. Detection limits of < 20% on all dates were also obtained for taxa richness and EOT index metrics when analyzed using dip net samples. Density metrics only allowed detection limits of about 50% on most dates.

This study provided needed information on the life history of taxa important in shallow, lentic ecosystems, ecological succession in newly created ponds, and statistically sound and ecologically meaningful metrics. This study also provides a valuable baseline for impact assessment work in experimental ponds.