Role of Predatory Fish in Community Dynamics of an Ephemeral Stream

  • Holomuzki J
  • Stevenson R
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In enclosed runs in a third-order ephemeral stream in west-central Kentucky, the effects of predatory sunfish (Lepomis) on benthic macroinvertebrates, benthic algae, and detritivory were compared (1) before stream intermittence, (2) after stream intermittence when transport was restricted, and (3) between substrata offering differential cover from fish predation. Ambient fish densities had little effect on total macrobenthic densities and processes on lower trophic levels before intermittence. Fish modestly affected macroinvertebrate densities after intermittence, when surface exchange of prey was interrupted by sections of dry stream. Among substrata, fish influenced macroinvertebrates on bedrock, but not on stony, coarse substrata. Densities of two taxa were significantly affected by fish, and this significantly altered the relative abundance of functional feeding groups in enclosures on bedrock by increasing the proportion of invertebrate predators in fish treatments. Macroinvertebrate densities in microhabitats on both substrata were not affected by fish presence. Dense growths of the stalked diatom Cymbella generally covered microhabitats and added structural complexity, particularly to bedrock surfaces. Unobstructed, natural migration of prey in the large(40 m2) fencelike enclosures (versus containers), ample refuge space, and low natural densities of fish were important in minimizing fish effects in enclosures.

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  • Joseph R. Holomuzki

  • R. Jan Stevenson

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