Macroinvertebrate production, trophic structure, and energy flow along a tallgrass prairie stream continuum

TitleMacroinvertebrate production, trophic structure, and energy flow along a tallgrass prairie stream continuum
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsWhiting, DP
DegreeMS Thesis
UniversitySouthern Illinois University
CityCarbondale, IL
Thesis TypeM.S. Thesis
Accession NumberKNZ001318

Conceptual models of stream continua predict that energy flow and consumer functional structure change predictably with the physical attributes of a stream. To quantify these relationships in a prairie landscape, I estimated macroinvertebrate production, benthic organic matter standing stocks, and resource consumption and egestion by consumer groups along a longitudinal continuum of Kings Creek, a tallgrass prairie stream draining the Konza Prairie Biological Station in Eastern Kansas. I sampled benthic macroinvertebrates for 1 year from three stream reaches, each bordered by distinct riparian vegetation. Riparian vegetation along the continuum ranged from grassy headwaters to shrubby mid-reaches to lower reaches bordered by gallery forest. Total habitat-weighted production ranged from 31.9 g ash-free dry mass (AFDM) m-2 y-1 in the grassy headwater reach to 9.1 g AFDM m-2 y-1 in the shrubby reach to 17.0 g AFDM m-2 y-1 in the gallery forest. Functional group contributions to production generally were similar along the continuum, with collector-gatherers (40%-56% of total) and Predators (23%-38%) dominating all reaches. Quantitative food webs indicated detrital pathways dominated energy flow in all reaches, with collector-gatherers accounting for most energy flow through primary consumers. Predators were well represented and consumed 75% - 135% of total macroinvertebrate production whereas shredders (2-4%), scrapers (11-15%), and filterers (<1%) consumed a small percentage of their particular resources. High production and consumption estimates for macroinvertebrate predators suggest top-down controls are important in this system. Although functional structure was fairly similar among reaches, changes in energy flow through some groups reflected longitudinal changes in resource availability. Results indicate that this tallgrass prairie stream ecosystem is intermediate in the context of predictions of conceptual stream continua models, and biotic interactions may override some predicted responses to changes in the physical template.