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The effect of two scales of habitat architecture on benthic grazing in a river

Robson, B.J. and Barmuta, L.A. (1998) The effect of two scales of habitat architecture on benthic grazing in a river. Freshwater Biology, 39 (2). pp. 207-220.

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1. This experiment studied the effects of differing levels of the complexity of substratum architecture at two spatial scales on the distribution and abundance of benthic algae and invertebrates, and the strength of the trophic interaction between invertebrate grazers and algae. Some estimates of the effects on invertebrate colonization rates were also made. 2. Four levels of microhabitat architectural complexity were created using artificial substrata (clay tiles) and placed in Mountain River, Tasmania, in two riffle types (bedrock and boulder-cobble) of differing large-scale substratum complexity. After a colonization period, invertebrate grazers were removed from half the tiles to measure the effects of grazing. Invertebrates on the tiles were also counted and identified. At the end of the experiment, algae were removed from the tiles and analysed for chlorophyll a. 3. Invertebrate grazers did not reduce algal biomass during the experiment, and microhabitat-scale architecture influenced algal biomass more strongly than riffle-scale architecture. Highly complex microhabitat architecture increased algal biomass by providing more surface area, but once standardized for surface area, algal biomass decreased as the complexity of microhabitat architecture increased. 4. Microhabitat-scale architecture was also predominant in determining invertebrate density and the identity of the dominant grazer species. In contrast to algal biomass, invertebrate densities and species density increased with the complexity of microhabitat architecture, suggesting that refuges from flow (and possibly predation) were as important to river invertebrates as the distribution of their food source. 5. Riffle-scale architecture had some effect on the colonization of two slow-moving grazer taxa, but, overall, the colonization processes of slow-moving grazers were determined mostly by the complexity of microhabitat-scale architecture.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Environmental Science
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing Ltd
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