Invertebrate drift patterns in a regulated river: Dams, periphyton biomass or longitudinal patterns?


Macroinvertebrate drift was sampled at 15 sites along the Tongariro River, New Zealand above and below two hydroelectric dams. Sixty-seven invertebrate taxa were collected in the drift. Trichoptera (31) were the most diverse, followed by Diptera (13), Ephemeroptera (8) and Plecoptera (8). However, chironomidae were the numerically dominant taxa in the drift throughout the river and represented over 80 % of all animals collected. Of these, Orthocladiinae and Diamesinae were the most abundant. Taxonomic richness declined with distance downstream and peaked at sites with intermediate levels of periphyton biomass. The per cent of Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera and Trichoptera (EPT) was 3-4 times higher in the unregulated section of the river and declined exponentially with both distance downstream and increase in periphyton biomass, but densities were similar along the river. Of the measured environmental variables periphyton biomass was most closely linked with drift community structure. Periphyton biomass was six times higher in the lower section of the river than the upper unregulated section. The autocorrelation between periphyton biomass and distance downstream complicates the interpretation of results. However, because of the distinct differences between above and below dam sections of river in periphyton biomass and the strong link between it and invertebrate drift we suggest that the alteration of flow patterns by the hydroelectric dams and the associated shift in periphyton biomass is the most likely explanation for invertebrate drift patterns in the river.

River Research and Applications
Jonathan D. Tonkin
Senior Lecturer & Rutherford Discovery Fellow