Aquatic invertebrates, stream condition, springs, disturbance


Ozark National Scenic Riverways (OZAR) was established to protect the corridor of the Current River and its major tributary, the Jacks Fork. The Current River is one of the few remaining free-flowing rivers in the U.S., with much of its base flow coming from several large springs. To assess the biological condition of these rivers, aquatic invertebrate community structure was monitored from 2005 to 2014. Benthic invertebrate samples and associated habitat and water quality data were collected from each of nine sampling sites using a Slack-Surber sampler. The Stream Condition Index (SCI), a multimetric index that incorporates taxa richness, EPT (Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, Trichoptera) richness, Shannon’s diversity index, and Hilsenhoff Biotic Index (HBI), was calculated. The benthic invertebrate fauna was diverse with 155 distinct taxa identified from all sites. Mean taxa richness was high, ranging from 22 to 30 among sites. The invertebrate taxa of the Current River and Jacks Fork are largely intolerant across all taxa represented (mean tolerance value= ~4.25). Mean HBI did not exceed 3.9 in the Current River or 4.4 for the Jacks Fork. Mean SCI scores across sampling sites generally were well above 16, indicating they are not impaired. Habitat and water quality data were summarized, but they were poorly correlated with individual invertebrate metrics. Sørenson’s similarity index was used to assess community similarity among sites, and similarity scores were then analyzed using ascendant hierarchical cluster analysis. Similarity among sites was 72% or greater. Cluster analysis showed that Current River and Jacks Fork sites clustered separately and in a downstream progression. The uppermost collection site on the Current River was most unlike the other sites, which probably relates to the distinct physical features of that site compared to the others. Nonmetric Multidimensional Scaling (NMDS) was used to evaluate the relationship of invertebrate metrics to habitat and water quality. The NMDS model was found to be a good fit (stress=0.04) and specific conductance, temperature, discharge, filamentous algae and aquatic vegetation were among the most important habitat variables in defining the relationship among sampling sites. The three lower Current River and Jacks Fork sites each were closely grouped in ordination space, but the three upper Current River sites were farther apart from each other. The influence of several large volume springs near those sites is suspected of producing such disparity through press type disturbances. Although the invertebrate communities and water quality in the Current River and Jacks Fork are largely sound and have high biological condition, ongoing and projected threats to these resources remain, and those threats largely originate outside park jurisdictional boundaries. Inherent variability of invertebrate community diversity across sites and years highlights the importance of using multi-metric assessments and multiyear monitoring to support management decisions.