Benthic metabolism as an indicator of stream ecosystem health

Fellows, Christine S., Clapcott, Joanne E., Udy, James W., Bunn, Stuart E., Harch, Bronwyn D., Smith, Michael J., & Davies, Peter M. (2006) Benthic metabolism as an indicator of stream ecosystem health. Hydrobiologia, 572(1), pp. 71-87.

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We tested direct and indirect measures of benthic metabolism as indicators of stream ecosystem health across a known agricultural land-use disturbance gradient in southeast Queensland, Australia. Gross primary production (GPP) and respiration (R24) in benthic chambers in cobble and sediment habitats, algal biomass (as chlorophyll a) from cobbles and sediment cores, algal biomass accrual on artificial substrates and stable carbon isotope ratios of aquatic plants and benthic sediments were measured at 53 stream sites, ranging from undisturbed subtropical rainforest to catchments where improved pasture and intensive cropping are major land-uses. Rates of benthic GPP and R24 varied by more than two orders of magnitude across the study gradient. Generalised linear regression modelling explained 80% or more of the variation in these two indicators when sediment and cobble substrate dominated sites were considered separately, and both catchment and reach scale descriptors of the disturbance gradient were important in explaining this variation. Model fits were poor for net daily benthic metabolism (NDM) and production to respiration ratio (P/R). Algal biomass accrual on artificial substrate and stable carbon isotope ratios of aquatic plants and benthic sediment were the best of the indirect indicators, with regression model R2 values of 50% or greater. Model fits were poor for algal biomass on natural substrates for cobble sites and all sites. None of these indirect measures of benthic metabolism was a good surrogate for measured GPP. Direct measures of benthic metabolism, GPP and R24, and several indirect measures were good indicators of stream ecosystem health and are recommended in assessing process-related responses to riparian and catchment land use change and the success of ecosystem rehabilitation actions.

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ID Code: 72825
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional Information: Cited By (since 1996):71
Export Date: 26 May 2014
Source: Scopus
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Catchment disturbance, Chlorophyll, Primary production, Respiration, Stable isotopes, Catchments, Isotopes, Mathematical models, Metabolism, Respirators, Stream flow, Ecosystems, agricultural land, benthos, ecosystem health, regression analysis, stable isotope, streamwater, Australasia, Australia, Queensland, algae
DOI: 10.1007/s10750-005-9001-6
ISSN: 0018-8158
Divisions: Current > Institutes > Institute for Future Environments
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2006 Springer
Copyright Statement: The final publication is available at Springer via
Deposited On: 16 Jun 2014 00:05
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2015 00:10

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