ecosystem processes and the river continuum concept
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Ecosystem Processes and the River Continuum Concept . Unit 1: Module 4, Lecture 5. Objectives. Students will be able to: classify sources of organic matter. diagram the flow of instream organic matter. factors that influence the storage of organic matter in streams.

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Students will be able to:

  • classify sources of organic matter.
  • diagram the flow of instream organic matter.
  • factors that influence the storage of organic matter in streams.
  • explain the river continuum concept
  • compare and contrast low order, mid-order, and high order streams.
sources of organic matter manual/6doing.htm veg/brfredmaple.html swm10.html

Sources of organic matter
  • Autochthonous – instream
  • Allochthonous – out of stream
types of organic matter
Dissolved organic matter

Soluble organic compounds that leach from leaves, roots, decaying organisms, and other sources

Largest pool of organic matter in streams

Particulate organic matter

Coarse particulate organic matter

Woody material & leaves > 1 mm

Fine particulate organic matter

Leaf fragments, invertebrate feces, and organic precipitates < 1 mm

Types of organic matter
instream organic matter processing
This figure depicts the routes carbon follows as it is processed within a stream.

Microbes, macro-invertebrates, fish, and other organisms all play roles in the physical and chemical processing of organic matter.

Instream organic matter processing

The River Continuum - sti/pratt/energy.html

macroinvertebrate functional roles in organic matter processing

A caddisfly of the family Limnephilidae

Macroinvertebrate functional roles in organic matter processing
  • Shredders
    • Dominant food
        • Vascular macrophyte tissue
        • Coarse particulate organic material (CPOM)
        • Wood
    • Feeding mechanisms
        • Herbivores - Chew and mine live macrophytes
        • Detritivores - Chew on CPOM
    • Representatives
        • Scathophagidae (dung flies)
        • Tipulidae (crane flies)
macroinvertebrate functional roles

A blackfly of the family Simulidae

A caddisfly of the family Hydroptilidae

Macroinvertebrate functional roles
  • Collectors
    • Dominant food
        • Decompose fine particulate organic matter (FPOM)
    • Feeding mechanisms
        • Filterers - Detritivores
        • Gatherers - Detritivores
    • Representatives
      • Filterers
          • Hydropsychidae
          • Simulidae (black flies)
      • Gatherers
          • Elmidae (riffle beetles)
          • Chironomini
          • Baetis
          • Ephemerella
          • Hexagenia
macroinvertebrate functional roles1

A dipteran of the family Thaumaleidae

Macroinvertebrate functional roles
  • Scrapers
    • Dominant food
        • Periphyton (attached algae)
        • Material associated with periphyton
    • Feeding mechanisms
        • Graze and scrape mineral and organic surfaces
    • Representatives
        • Helicopsychidae
        • Psephenidae (water pennies)
        • Thaumaleidae (solitary midges)
        • Glossosoma
        • Heptagenia
macroinvertebrate functional roles2

A stonefly of the family Perlidae

A “true bug” of the family Notonectidae

Macroinvertebrate functional roles
  • Predators
    • Dominant food
        • Living animal tissue
    • Feeding mechanisms
        • Engulfers - Attack prey and ingest whole animals
        • Piercers - Pierce tissues, suck fluids
    • Representatives
      • Engulfers
          • Anisoptera (dragonflies)
          • Acroneuria
          • Corydalus (hellgrammites)
      • Piercers
          • Veliidae (water striders)
          • Corixidae (water boatmen)
          • Tabanidae (deerflies & horseflies)
fate of organic matter
Organic matter that enters streams may be (percent estimates are approximate and variable):

Stored within the stream bank or channel (25%)

Exported downstream (50%)

Metabolized and respired as carbon dioxide by organisms (25%)

Photo – g. merrick

Fate of organic matter
storage of organic matter
Storage of organic matter
  • Factors that are likely to increase retention time are debris dams, beaver dams, floodplains, and geomorphological features of the stream or river that impede flow.
bear brook new hampshire
Bear Brook in New Hampshire is the site of a famous organic matter budget study (Likens, 1973).

In the this small, forested headwater stream it was found that greater than 99% of the carbon input to Bear Brook came from allochthonous sources (POM slightly greater than DOM).

Close to 65% of this input was exported downstream from the 1700 meter long study site.

Input of DOM exceeded exports

Due to leaf fall more POM was exported than entered the site

Bear Brook, New Hampshire
stream order and the rcc
Low order streams

Shaded headwater streams

Coarse particulate matter (CPOM) provides resource base for consumer community

Stream order and the RCC
stream order and the rcc1
Mid-order streams

Energy inputs change as stream broadens

Shading and contribution of CPOM decreases

Sunlight supports significant periphyton production

Upstream processing of CPOM results in input of fine particulate matter (FPOM)

Stream order and the RCC
stream order and the rcc2
Stream order and the RCC
  • High order streams
    • As streams widen even more and flows drop, macrophytes become more abundant
    • In the largest rivers, macrophytes are limited to the river margins because mid-channel conditions are typically too turbid
    • Bottom substrate becomes smaller