Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Anthropogenic climate change is expected to increase the aridity of many regions of the world. Surface water ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to changes in the water-cycle and may suffer adverse impacts in affected regions. To enhance our understanding of how freshwater communities will respond to predicted shifts in water-cycle dynamics, we employed a space for time approach along a natural precipitation gradient on the Texas Coastal Prairie. In the spring of 2017, we conducted surveys of 10 USGS-gauged, wadeable streams spanning a semi-arid to sub-humid rainfall gradient; we measured nutrients, water chemistry, habitat characteristics, benthic macroinvertebrates, and fish communities. Fish diversity correlated positively with precipitation and was negatively correlated with conductivity. Macroinvertebrate diversity peaked within the middle of the gradient. Semi-arid fish and invertebrate communities were dominated by euryhaline and live-bearing taxa. Sub-humid communities contained environmentally sensitive trichopterans and ephemeropterans as well as a variety of predatory fish which may impose top-down controls on primary consumers. These results warn that aridification coincides with the loss of competitive and environmentally sensitive taxa which could yield less desirable community states.
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Supplemental information available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.7717/ peerj.12137#supplemental-information
Kinard, Sean; Patrick, Christopher J.; and Carvallo, Fernando, Effects of a natural precipitation gradient on fish and macroinvertebrate assemblages in coastal streams (2021). PeerJ, 9(e12137).