Seasonal community dynamics of macroinvertebrates in an Arctic stream

University essay from Umeå universitet/Institutionen för ekologi, miljö och geovetenskap

Abstract: Arctic ecosystems are amongst the most vulnerable on Earth to ongoing climate change. While the responses to these changes are well studied on land, less is known about how aquatic communities may respond to a warmer arctic. For stream invertebrate communities, predicting such responses requires basic understanding of how and why different taxonomic groups fluctuate throughout the year. However, few studies have assessed the community dynamics of stream macroinvertebrates across seasons in the Arctic. In this project, I asked how macroinvertebrate community structure changes between months and across seasons in a small Arctic stream in northern Sweden. I expected that community change over time would reflect changes in the supply of organic matter (e.g., leaf litter and algae) to dominant consumers. A total of five transects were sampled for macroinvertebrates each month from July to April using Surber sampling. I used descriptive and multivariate analyses to evaluate changes in community structure between months and seasons. Marked differences in community composition were found between the seasons with detritivores (shredders) dominating the autumn months possibly reflecting input of birch litter and high abundances of grazers during and post winter, possibly reflecting primary production early in spring. Expected climate change effects in the Arctic include warmer temperatures and increases in the terrestrial plant productivity. My results suggest that these shifts could cause changes in stream community composition, driven by increases in deciduous litter inputs that promote shredders and/or by increases in primary production during spring that favour grazers and collector-gatherers, which feed on algae.

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