Can Riparian Habitat Impact Water Chemistry and Macroinvertebrate Community Structure in Small Blackwater Creeks?

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Streams depend on the surrounding valley for energetic subsidies and to set the stage for physicochemical conditions. Alterations to the surrounding riparian and adjacent upstream/downstream areas can ultimately result in changes to biological communities. As part of an undergraduate study in Fall 2016, we sampled the benthic macroinvertebrate communities of two creeks in southeastern Georgia, one with a relatively unaltered riparian buffer (Lotts Creek) and one with a highly impacted riparian area that has been almost entirely removed (Beautiful Eagle Creek). Our goal was to compare the sampled assemblages using a multi-metric approach (richness, composition, tolerance, etc.), along with point measurements of water chemistry parameters, in order to assess the health and ecological integrity of each creek. We predicted that Lotts Creek (> riparian buffer) would yield a more diverse macroinvertebrate assemblage, have more sensitive taxa present, and produce a higher multi-metric score (MMI) when compared to Beautiful Eagle Creek. As expected, we found differences in water chemistry (e.g., DO) and macroinvertebrate assemblages (e.g., EPT, MMI) between the creeks. However, some metrics (e.g., HBI) yielded similar scores despite these differences.


Society for Freshwater Science Annual Meeting (SFS)


Raleigh, NC