The physical template of freshwater ecosystems has a pervasive influence on biological communities and processes. To examine the influence of hydrology on wetland insect communities, we quantified insect emergence from five riparian sloughs in the central Platte River valley. Annual hydroperiods of the wetlands ranged from 94 to 365 d/yr, and frequency and magnitude of drying events were inversely proportional to hydroperiod length. Three emergence traps were placed in each wetland from April through November 1997. Most insects collected in traps were identified to genus, and individual dry mass (DM) also was determined. Abundance of emerging insects (24 124 individuals/m(2)) and emergence production (5.1 g DM.m(-2).yr(-1)) were highest from the site with an intermediate hydroperiod of 296 d. Sites with longer and shorter hydroperiods had lower emergence abundance and production. Emergence production front the perennial site, which contained fish year-round, was only 0.26 g DM.m(-2).yr(-1). Diptera generally dominated emergence trap catches. Chironomidae, Culicidae, and Ceratopogonidae were among the dominant contributors to abundance, whereas Sciomyzidae and Muscidae were important contributors to biomass at most sites. Quadratic equations best described relationships between taxa richness and annual hydroperiod (r(2) = 0.78 P < 0.05) or number of drying events/yr (r(2) = 0.81, P < 0.05), reflecting a peak in richness at intermediate levels of both. These relationships followed predictions of the intermediate disturbance hypothesis, but specific mechanisms underlying patterns were difficult to discern. Like emergence production, taxa richness was also highest at intermediate hydroperiods. Hence, insect diversity (measured as richness) and emergence production were positively correlated (r(2) = 0.85, P < 0.05). Results indicate that the hydrology of central Platte River wetlands exerts a strong influence on insect species richness and emergence production, and that intermittent sites harbor the highest insect diversity and produce more emergent insect biomass. However, trends in seasonal emergence patterns and taxonomic shifts across the hydrologic gradient in this study suggest that a landscape containing a mosaic of hydrologically distinct wetlands will maximize aquatic insect diversity and productivity at larger spatial and temporal scales.
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