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Oecologia. 1984 Nov;64(3):306-313. doi: 10.1007/BF00379126.

The importance of predation, substrate and spatial refugia in determining lotic insect distributions.

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Department of Zoology, University of Maryland, 20742, College Park, MD, USA.


An experiment was conducted to evaluate the interaction between predation, substrate, and spatial refugia in the organization of a stream insect community (Reeds Creek, Pendleton Co., West Virginia). Patterns of insect colonization were compared between fish exclusion cages and open controls that allowed access to vertebrate predators. Each cage contained 4 different substrates that varied in the relative amount of spatial refugia. Fish had little influence on the diversity or abundance of any insect taxa, even when spatial refugia were limited. The only significant effect due to predation, was an increased diversity of large (>8 mm) invertebrates in the absence of predators. However, because these taxa were relatively rare, the overall role of fish predation on insect community structure was minimal.In contrast, substrate had a marked effect on insect colonization. Insects were always more abundant (number/basket) on loose substrates containing large numbers of interstitial spaces, compared to cement-embedded substrates with few refuges available. In addition, invertebrates were more abundant on loose gravel compared to loose cobbles. Howver, when substrate "preferencesrd were examined according to insect density (number/m2), loose cobbles were generally the preferred substrate. The present experiment rejects the hypothesis that patterns of substrate colonization can be explained as differential insect mortality by predators, due to varying amounts of refugia. Alternative mechanisms such as differing amounts of trapped detritus and substrate surface area may account for substrate "preference".


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