Aquatic macroinvertebrate communities respond to riparian insect invader

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Diesburg KM, SMP Sullivan, DWP Manning. 2018. Changes in benthic invertebrate communities of central Appalachian streams attributed to hemlock woolly adelgid invasion. Aquatic Sciences 81:11


Eastern hemlock trees (Tsuga canadensis [L.] Carr.) often dominate riparian vegetation of central Appalachian headwater streams, and the invasive hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae Annand; HWA) has decimated hemlock stands in this region. Although research concerning HWA impacts on soil, hydrology, and forest structure is emerging, associated changes in stream structure and function are not as well documented. We quantified HWA-invasion effects on benthic macroinvertebrate communities in 21 headwater streams across Ohio, West Virginia, and Virginia (USA) representing unimpacted, moderate invasion, and severe invasion, respectively. We observed differences in benthic macroinvertebrate community composition; severely invaded sites exhibited the highest diversity, whereas moderate sites had the lowest diversity. The composition of macroinvertebrate functional feeding groups exhibited shifts as well. For example, the relative abundance of herbivorous invertebrates increased from 4% (± 3%) at unimpacted sites to 23% (± 14%) at severely impacted sites. Changes in macroinvertebrate density, diversity, and functional-group composition were associated with sediment grainsize distribution (proportion bedrock and D84), large-wood characteristics (volume and density), and nutrient concentrations (PO4 and NH4). Our results suggest that in-stream physical and chemical alterations associated with HWA-invasion and subsequent hemlock decline are associated with changes in stream invertebrate diversity and trophic relationships. We demonstrate how a pervasive terrestrial invader can influence in-stream biotic communities.