Original paper

Large versus small wood in streams: the effect of wood dimension on macroinvertebrate communities

Lester, Rebecca E.; Wright, Wendy; Jones-Lennon, Michelle; Rayment, Phil

Abstract

Conventionally, most research and restoration involving in-stream wood focuses on large wood (>0.1 m diameter), excluding any smaller pieces. However, this may neglect a major component of in-stream habitat, as small wood can constitute the majority of pieces, particularly in small streams. The ecological benefit of large wood is well established, but corresponding benefits associated with small wood (0.05-0.1 m diameter) have not been demonstrated. To test the effect of wood dimension on macroinvertebrate community composition, we compared the fauna occupying large wood habitats with that occupying small wood at eight streams in south-eastern Australia. The relationships between wood dimensions and its macroinvertebrate fauna were complex. Community composition did not vary with wood dimension, and no significant correlations were found between other macroinvertebrate attributes (including family richness and evenness) and wood dimension, including diameter. However, analysis of covariance suggested that large wood supported a greater diversity and abundance of macroinvertebrates, indicating that the method of analysis could influence the result. Adjustment for differences in sample dimension using rarefaction determined that these findings were likely to be a result of the surface area and volumes sampled varying with the dimension of the wood. Per unit surface area, and per unit volume, small wood supported a similar number of families to large wood. Thus we conclude that, relative to the available surface area, small and large wood can be equivalent in their contribution to the available habitat in a stream. Therefore, the potential value of small wood as a habitat resource warrants its explicit consideration for inclusion in ecological and rehabilitation studies.

Keywords

aquatic macroinvertebratescommunity compositionsmall woody debrislarge woody debrisrarefaction