Date of Graduation

12-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Biology (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Biological Sciences

Advisor

Daniel D. Magoulick

Committee Member

Michelle A. Evans-White

Second Committee Member

Brian E. Haggard

Third Committee Member

Steven L. Stephenson

Keywords

Biological sciences; Earth sciences; Crayfish; Environmental flows; Fish; Hydrologic alteration; Macroinvertebrates; Stream drying

Abstract

I examined flow-ecology relationships among stream communities in the Ozark Highlands, USA. I sampled fish, crayfish, and benthic macroinvertebrates during two consecutive summers, including a drought year (2012) and a flood year (2013). Biological response variables related to community structure were assessed via two different statistical methods: an Information Theoretic approach relating response variables to a priori selected predictor variables incorporating hydrology, habitat, geomorphology, and water quality, and canonical ordination using forward selection to relate these same response variables to a large assortment of hydrologic metrics. In addition to assessing metrics related to predicted natural flow, flow alteration at gaged sites was also quantified and community metrics were assessed with respect to flow alteration. Additionally, I conducted a manipulative laboratory greenhouse experiment to examine the effects of stream drying, one of the major components of the natural hydrologic disturbance regime in the region, on stream fishes as well as benthic community structure. Hydrologic variation was often less important than other environmental variables and substantial temporal variation existed in flow-ecology relationships. Stream flow magnitude was the most important category of hydrologic metric overall, but there were key differences in which metrics were important for each assemblage and how those assemblages responded to those metrics. Flow alteration has a strong effect on Ozark riverine communities, and the most important categories of flow alteration affecting these communities are magnitude of average flows, and frequency, magnitude, and duration of high flows. The large number of important high flow metrics suggests that flood events may play a particularly crucial role in structuring aquatic assemblages in the region. I found that seasonal stream drying had strong species-specific effects on organisms in pool refuges, and that type of drying specifically affected periphyton growth. Overall, I found that the elucidation of flow-ecology relationships and management decisions that are based on those relationships face a variety of challenges: the complex interaction of hydrology with other kinds of environmental variables, temporal variation in the aquatic community, and the differential effects of flow metrics on different assemblages.

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