The species-specific mobility of six species of lowland stream Trichoptera was studied in flume experiments with different habitats and current flows. The test species were selected according to their occurrence along the environmental gradient from more natural towards highly disturbed sandy, lowland streams of the North-West European plain. Two groups of species were distinguished, three species occurring more frequently towards the natural end versus three occurring more frequently towards the disturbed end of the stream disturbance gradient. Experiments were conducted in a temperature and light controlled environment in indoor, re-circulating, man-made stream channels with four replicate gutters each. The bottom of each gutter held ten trays filled with five selected habitat materials (two trays each), which provided refugia and food. Three flow treatments with constant current velocities of 10, 30, or 50 cm/s were applied. Movements were scored based on visual observations of the position of each individual at fixed time points. The first day after release, individuals moved around very actively; this ‘release effect’ was removed from further analyses. The trichopteran species occurring near the more natural end of the disturbance gradient exhibited significantly less mobility (on average 10–15% of individuals actively moved around) than the species from the more disturbed end of the gradient (on average 30–40% of individuals actively moved around). The first group of trichopteran species also spent significantly longer times in the leaves habitat compared to the other three species, which moved more or less independent of habitat. With increasing current velocity, all test species moved more frequently, particularly the species from the more disturbed end of the gradient. This could indicate behavior to avoid dislodgement. The mobility of all species exceeded the mobility needed to use habitat resources of food and shelter, both present in excess. Therefore, short-term movement could also be (partly) a random behavior. Overall, the more tolerant species from the disturbed end of the gradient showed more mobility and flexibility than the species occurring under more or less natural stream conditions. This was consistent with the hypothesis that mobility is an adaptation of tolerant, ubiquitous species. Mobility is an adaptation of r-strategists.
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