tropical streams

Do small-scale exclosure/enclosure experiments predict the eVects of large-scale extirpation of freshwater migratory fauna?

Do Small-Scale Exclosure/Enclosure Experiments Predict the Effects of Large-Scale Extirpation of Freshwater Migratory Fauna?
Effie A. Greathouse, Catherine M. Pringle and William H. McDowell
Vol. 149, No. 4 (Oct., 2006), pp. 709-717

A variety of theoretical and empirical studies indicate that the abilities of small-scale experiments to predict responses to large-scale perturbations vary. Small-scale experiments often do not predict the directions of large-scale responses, and relatively few empirical studies have examined whether small-scale experiments predict the magnitudes of large-scale responses. Here we present an empirical example of small-scale manipulations predicting not only the directions but also the magnitudes of the eVects of whole-catchment, decades-long decimation of migratory freshwater shrimp populations. In streams of Puerto Rico (USA), we used arena sizes of < 2 m2 in 1- to 4-week exclosure/enclosure experiments. EVects of small-scale experiments largely matched those of largescale shrimp loss above dams for a variety of response variables (abiotic and biotic factors including epilithic Wne sediments, algae and organic matter, and invertebrate grazers, detritivores, and predators). The results of our extrapolation contrast with studies of small- versus large-scale perturbations in the temperate zone. Our Wndings are likely explained by: a set of response variables that are more dominated by within-patch processes than exchange processes, an experimental manipulation that encompassed the characteristic scales of response variables, our use of open arenas lacking cage artifacts, and/or our combination of two distinct experimental approaches (exclosures and enclosures). Based on our study design, we suggest that extrapolation across experimental scales can be greatly enhanced by embedding open arenas within large-scale conditions that represent all treatment levels.


Heartsill-Scalley T, Aide TM. 2003. Riparian vegetation and stream condition
in a tropical agriculture–secondary forest mosaic. Ecological
Applications 13: 225–234.

Changes in land cover from forest to agriculture often alter riparian vegetation, which modifies the physical conditions of streams. To understand the impacts of different categories of land cover on riparian and stream habitats, we sampled riparian vegetation and stream conditions in three adjacent watersheds in southeastern Puerto Rico. Land cover categories (pasture, mixed, and forest) were determined using aerial photographs. Vegetation structure and composition and characteristics of streams were assessed for 35 riparian sites. Sites were located along first-order streams, at 400–600 m elevation in the wet-forest life zone. Understory vegetation in the forest sites was mainly shrubs, herbs, and ferns, whereas the mixed and pasture sites were dominated by grasses, vines, and bare soil. Syzygium jambos and Spathodea campanulata, nonnatives, and Guarea guidonia, a native, were the most common tree species in the riparian areas. Surrounding land cover explained .60% of the variation among stream sites. There was a positive relationship between tree cover and percentage of dissolved oxygen, and a negative relationship between tree cover and percentage of substrata covered by sediments from eroded soil. The amount of woody debris in the streams tended to increase with forest cover. Overall, land cover is a landscape feature that effectively characterized riparian understory cover, tree species composition, and stream condition

Linking Species and Ecosystems: Different Biotic Assemblages Cause Interstream Differences in Organic Matter

Linking Species and Ecosystems: Different Biotic Assemblages Cause Interstream Differences in Organic Matter
C. M. Pringle, Nina Hemphill, W. H. McDowell, Angela Bednarek and James G. March
Vol. 80, No. 6 (Sep., 1999), pp. 1860-1872

Here we test the hypothesis that differences in macrobiotic assemblages can lead to differences in the quantity and quality of organic matter in benthic depositional environments among streams in montane Puerto Rico. We experimentally manipulated biota over a 30–40 d period in two streams with distinctly different macrobiotic assemblages: one characterized by high densities of omnivorous shrimps (Decapoda: Atyidae and Xiphocarididae) and no predaceous fishes, and one characterized by low densities of shrimps and the presence of predaceous fishes. To incorporate the natural hydrologic regime and to avoid confounding artifacts associated with cage enclosures/exclosures (e.g., high sedimentation), we used electricity as a mechanism for experimental exclusion, in situ. In each stream, shrimps and/or fishes were excluded from specific areas of rock substrata in four pools using electric “fences” attached to solar-powered fence chargers. In the stream lacking predaceous fishes (Sonadora), the unelectrified control treatment was almost exclusively dominated by high densities of omnivorous shrimps that constantly ingested fine particulate material from rock surfaces. Consequently, the control had significantly lower levels of inorganic sediments, organic material, carbon, and nitrogen than the exclusion treatment, as well as less variability in these parameters. Tenfold more organic material (as ash-free dry mass, AFDM) and fivefold more nitrogen accrued in shrimp exclosures (10.6 g AFDM/m2, 0.2 g N/m2) than in controls (1.1 g AFDM/m2, 0.04 g N/m2). By reducing the quantity of fine particulate organic material and associated nitrogen in benthic environments, omnivorous shrimps potentially affect the supply of this important resource to other trophic levels. The small amount of fine particulate organic matter (FPOM) that remained in control treatments (composed of sparse algal cells) was of higher quality than that in shrimp exclosures. This is evidenced by the significantly lower carbon-to-nitrogen (C/N) ratio (an indicator of food quality, with relatively low C/N indicating higher food quality) in the control relative to the shrimp exclosure treatment. In contrast, the stream with predaceous fishes (Bisley) was characterized by very low numbers of shrimps, and macrobiota had no significant effect on benthic sediments, organic matter, C, N, and C/N. All parameters were highly variable through time, with levels and ranges in variability similar to the shrimp exclusion treatment in the Sonadora. Our experimental results are consistent with findings of an independent survey of six streams in four different drainages. Four streams that had an abundance of omnivorous shrimps, but lacked predaceous fishes, had extremely low levels of fine benthic organic and inorganic material. In contrast, two streams that had low densities of shrimps and contained predaceous fishes had significantly higher levels. Results show a strong linkage between species and ecosystem characteristics: interstream differences in the quantity and quality of fine benthic organic matter resources were determined by the nature of the macrobiotic assemblage. Furthermore, patterns in the distribution of shrimp assemblages reflected landscape patterns in the benthic depositional environment among streams.

the role of omnivory in a neotropical stream: separating diurnal and nocturnal effects

The Role of Omnivory in a Neotropical Stream: Separating Diurnal and Nocturnal Effects
Catherine M. Pringle and Toshihide Hamazaki
Vol. 79, No. 1 (Jan., 1998), pp. 269-280

The role of omnivory in structuring communities is potentially great in lowland neotropical streams that are characterized by an abundance of macroconsumers that consume both insects and algae. Here, we separate effects of natural densities of diurnal fishes and nocturnal shrimps in structuring the benthic community of a stream draining Costa Rica's Atlantic slope. We experimentally manipulated the spatial and temporal access of fishes and shrimps to benthic resources, in situ, using electric "fences" powered by solar-powered fence chargers. Both fishes and shrimps significantly reduced inorganic sediment mass, organic ashfree dry mass (AFDM), densities of larval Chironomidae, and total insects: their combined effects were greater than effects of either group alone, and there was no significant interaction. Fishes shifted algal community composition from diatoms to green and blue-green algae and benthic insect communities towards chironomids, while shrimps had no significant effect on community composition. Effects of fishes were generally greater than those of shrimps, and this is due, in part, to higher natural densities and foraging pressures of fishes. Furthermore, shrimps foraged for significantly longer periods of time in the treatment where fishes were excluded than in the combined fish and shrimp access treatment, suggesting that diurnally feeding fishes are strong "interactors," mediating resource availability to nocturnally feeding shrimps. Natural erosion and sediment-mediated effects of macroconsumers (both direct and indirect) also affected algal communities: a manual sediment removal experiment resulted in significant reductions of diatom biovolume and increases in the filament length of green and blue-green algae. Our results show the importance of: (1) assessing macroconsumer effects in a relatively natural depositional environment subject to background erosion and sloughing (i.e., in this case by using electric exclosures); (2) evaluating effects of natural densities of both diurnal and nocturnal macroconsumers through time in the context of these abiotic effects; and (3) distinguishing between the response of different types of algal resources (e.g., diatoms vs. green and blue-green algae), which are differentially affected by sedimentation and erosion. Cage experiments, short-term observations, or one-time sampling of undifferentiated "algae" may artificially overestimate trophic effects and underestimate abiotic effects. We found no evidence of a trophic cascade. Our findings are in agreement with the theoretical prediction that large-sized omnivores have strong direct trophic (feeding) effects, both on smaller primary consumers (insects) and basal resources (algae).

Effects of different types of conditioning on rates of leaf-litter shredding by Xiphocaris elongata, a Neotropical freshwater shrimp

Crowl, Todd A.; Welsh, Vanessa; Heartsill-Scalley, Tamara 2006. Effects of different types of conditioning on rates of leaf-litter shredding by Xiphocaris elongata, a Neotropical freshwater shrimp.. J. N. Am. Benthol. Soc., 25(1):198-208.

Temperate headwater streams with closed canopies rely on inputs of terrestrially derived organic matter to provide the major energy basis for their food webs. Microbial colonization, or conditioning, makes leaf litter more nutritional and palatable to stream detritivores, but few studies have investigated the relative importance of litter source to macroshredders in tropical streams. We determined the source (terrestrial, aquatic, or aerial), quantity, and species composition of allochthonous inputs into the Quebrada Prieta, a tropical headwater stream in Puerto Rico, as a first step toward understanding the importance of conditioning history to rates of tropical leaf-litter processing by decapod consumers. Fresh leaves of 4 common species of leaves were treated by exposing them to different conditions for 2 wk. These exposure treatments (conditioning histories) represented routes by which leaves might enter streams and included submersion (aquatic input), incubation on the streambank soil (terrestrial input), and suspension above the ground (aerial input). Conditioned leaves were placed in small experimental microcosms with or without shrimp (Xiphocaris elongata) for 20 d. Shrimp significantly increased the rate of decomposition of all leaf species independent of conditioning history. Conditioning history had little effect on breakdown rates independent of the presence of shrimp. One species (Rourea surinamensis) had faster mass loss when the leaves were conditioned as aquatic inputs rather than as terrestrial or aerial inputs. Our results indicate that conditioning history has little effect on the ability of some macroconsumers to alter detrital foodweb dynamics in tropical streams. Tropical stream ecosystems may function differently from temperate ecosystems because of the dominance of large detritivores such as shrimps.



Large dams degrade the integrity of a wide variety of ecosystems, yet direct downstream effects of dams have received the most attention from ecosystem managers and researchers. We investigated indirect upstream effects of dams resulting from decimation of migratory freshwater shrimp and fish populations in Puerto Rico, USA, in both high- and low-gradient streams. In high-gradient streams above large dams, native shrimps and fishes were extremely rare, whereas similar sites without large dams had high abundances of native consumers. Losses of native fauna above dams dramatically altered their basal food resources and assemblages of invertebrate competitors and prey. Compared to pools in high-gradient streams with no large dams, pool epilithon above dams had nine times more algal biomass, 20 times more fine benthic organic matter (FBOM), 65 times more fine benthic inorganic matter (FBIM), 28 times more carbon, 19 times more nitrogen, and four times more non-decapod invertebrate biomass. High-gradient riffles upstream from large dams had five times more FBIM than did undammed riffles but showed no difference in algal abundance, FBOM, or non-decapod invertebrate biomass. For epilithon of lowgradient streams, differences in basal resources between pools above large dams vs. without large dams were considerably smaller in magnitude than those observed for pools in highgradient sites. These results match previous stream experiments in which the strength of native shrimp and fish effects increased with stream gradient. Our results demonstrate that dams can indirectly affect upstream free-flowing reaches by eliminating strong top-down effects of consumers. Migratory omnivorous shrimps and fishes occur throughout the tropics, and the consequences of their declines upstream from many tropical dams are likely to be similar to those in Puerto Rico. Thus, ecological effects of migratory fauna loss upstream from dams encompass a wider variety of species interactions and biomes than the bottom-up effects (i.e., elimination of salmonid nutrient subsidies) recognized for northern temperate systems.

Conservation and management of migratory fauna and dams in tropical streams of Puerto Rico

Greathouse, E. A., C. M. Pringle, and J. G. Holmquist.
2006. Conservation and management of migratory
fauna: dams in tropical streams of Puerto
Rico. Aquatic Conservation 16:695–712.

1. Compared to most other tropical regions, Puerto Rico appears to have dammed its running waters decades earlier and to a greater degree. The island has more large dams per unit area than many countries in both tropical and temperate regions (e.g., 3x that of the U.S.), and the peak rate of large dam construction occurred two and three decades prior to reported peak rates in Latin America, Asia and Africa. 2. Puerto Rico is a potential window into the future of freshwater migratory fauna in tropical regions, given the island’s extent and magnitude of dam development and the available scientific information on ecology and management of the island’s migratory fauna. 3. We review ecology, management and conservation of migratory fauna in relation to dams in Puerto Rico. Our review includes a synthesis of recent and unpublished observations on upstream effects of large dams on migratory fauna and an analysis of patterns in free crest spillway discharge across Puerto Rican reservoirs. Analyses suggest that large dams with rare spillway discharge cause near, not complete, extirpation of upstream populations of migratory fauna. They also suggest several management and conservation issues in need of further research and consideration. These include research on the costs, benefits and effectiveness of simple fish/shrimp passage designs involving simulating spillway discharge and the appropriateness of establishing predatory fishes in reservoirs of historically fishless drainages.

Riparian indicators of flow frequency in a tropical montane stream network

Pike, A. S., and Scatena, F. N., 2010, Riparian indicators of flow frequency in a tropical montane stream
network: Journal of Hydrology, v. 382, p. 72–87, doi:10.1016/j.jhydrol.2009.12.019.

Many field indicators have been used to approximate the magnitude and frequency of flows in a variety of streams and rivers, yet due to a scarcity of long-term flow records in tropical mountain streams, little to no work has been done to establish such relationships between field features and the flow regime in these environments. Furthermore, the transition between the active channel of a river and the adjacent flood zone (i.e. bankfull) is an important geomorphologic and ecological boundary, but is rarely identifiable in steep mountain channels that lack alluvial flood plains. This study (a) quantifies relationships between field indicators and flow frequency in alluvial and steepland channels in a tropical mountain stream network and (b) identifies a reference active channel boundary in these channels, based on statistically defined combinations of riparian features, that corresponds to the same flow frequency of the bankfull stage and the effective discharge in adjacent alluvial channels. The relative elevation of transitions in riparian vegetation, soil, and substrate characteristics were first surveyed at nine stream gages in and around the Luquillo Experimental Forest in Northeastern Puerto Rico. The corresponding discharge, flow frequency, and recurrence intervals associated with these features was then determined from longterm 15-min discharge records and a partial duration series analysis. Survey data indicate that mosses and short grasses dominate at a stage often inundated by sub-effective flows. Herbaceous vegetation is associated with intermediate discharges that correspond to the threshold for sediment mobilization. Near-channel woody shrubs and trees establish at elevations along the channel margin inundated by a less frequent discharge that is coincident with the effective discharge of bed load sediment transport. Our data demonstrate that in alluvial channels in the study, both the bankfull stage (as marked by a flood plain) and the channel-forming (effective) discharge are associated with the presence of fine-grained substrate and soil, and tall, mature woody vegetation. In montane reaches that lack a flood plain, a boundary that is characterized by the incipient presence of soil, woody shrubs, and trees corresponds to the same flow frequency as the bankfull discharge of nearby alluvial channels. The reference discharge based on these riparian features in steepland sites has an average exceedance probability between 0.09% and 0.30%, and a recurrence interval between 40 and 90 days. We conclude that flows with similar frequencies influence the establishment of riparian vegetation, soil development, and substrate characteristics along channel margins in similar ways. Thus, these riparian features can be used as an indicator of hydrogeomorphic site conditions to identify active channel boundaries that occur at a constant flow frequency throughout the study stream network.

Effects of coupled natural and anthropogenic factors on the community structure of diadromous fish and shrimp species in tropical island streams

CATHERINE L. HEIN*, ANDREW S. PIKE†1 , JUAN F. BLANCO‡, ALAN P. COVICH§ , FREDERICK N. SCATENA†, CHARLES P. HAWKINS* AND TODD A. CROWL. Effects of coupled natural and anthropogenic factors on the community structure of diadromous fish and shrimp species in tropical island streams. Freshwater Biology. Vol 56, Is 5 pp 1002-1015.

1. Overlapping river and road networks provide a framework for studying the complex interactions between natural and human systems, with river-road intersections as focal areas of study. Roads can alter the morphology of stream channels, pose barriers to freshwater fauna, provide easy access to streams for humans and non-native species and accelerate the expansion of urban development. 2. We determined what variables control the structure of diadromous fish and shrimp communities and assessed whether particular road crossings altered community structure in north-eastern Puerto Rico. We identified 24 sites that represented a range of river and road sizes across two catchments that drain El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico. 3. The location of natural barriers and the size of stream pools were the most important variables for predicting six of fifteen fish and shrimp distributions. Predatory fishes were predicted to be limited to areas in the river network below large, steep waterfalls, whereas adult shrimp Atya lanipes (Atyidae) were predicted to be present above these waterfalls. The fish Awaous banana was predicted to be present in pools >11.6 m wide, whereas the shrimp Xiphocaris elongata was predicted to be present in pools <10.4 m wide. The distributions of nine species were predicted poorly, but three of these species were common and three were rare. 4. Although urban and agricultural land covers were among the top three predictors of five species distributions, they were probably good predictors because they were correlated with the natural gradient. Further study is necessary to disentangle natural and anthropogenic gradients. 5. Road crossings, 10 of which were culverts, were not dispersal barriers for fishes or shrimps. On average, species were present both upstream and downstream from road crossings at 68% of sites where they occurred. Absences upstream or downstream from road crossings occurred at 16% of sites each and likely resulted from a failure to detect species.


Urbanization and increases in impervious area are known to increase stream runoff and flashiness and several indices have been developed to quantify flashiness in temperate streams. The effectiveness of these indices in the humid tropics and how urbanization influences the flashiness of tropical streams that are known for their inherent flashiness is poorly understood and documented. This study compares two existing flashiness indices and a new approach that quantifies flashiness by the average time between large events on 13 urban to forested streams in Northeastern Puerto Rico. The average time between events of specific magnitudes, the Richards-Baker Flashiness index, and a Frequency of Stage Change approach were calculated and compared using average daily, hourly, and 15 minute discharge data. All analysis was based on USGS discharge records for the same 10 year period, 2000 through 2009. The results indicate that when flashiness is based on average daily stream flow, there was little to no discernible difference in the flashiness of the urban and forested streams. This results because average daily discharge records miss or underestimates the magnitude, duration, and the frequency of most events. When comparing the time between events of a given magnitude using hourly or 15 minute discharge series, the urban drainages have a shorter time period between peaks of a given magnitude than rural drainages. The Frequency of Stage Change approach also indicates that high density urban drainages are flashier than drainages with forested or mixed land use. For the average days and the stage frequency change method, flashiness indices based on hourly time series are similar to those based on the 15 minute series. The analysis indicates that tropical urban streams are flashier than their rural counterparts; however the difference is less than has been reported in temperate studies and is only statistically apparent when using high resolution discharge records.
Syndicate content