Habitat dynamics in the bed sediments of an intermittent upland stream
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The effects of the hydrological regime on temporal changes to physical characteristics of substratum habitat, sediment texture of surface sediments (<10 cm), were investigated in a sub-tropical headwater stream over four years. Surface discharge was measured together with vertical hydraulic gradient and groundwater depth in order to explore features of sediment habitat that extend beyond the streambed surface. Whilst the typical discharge pattern was one of intermittent base flows and infrequent flow events associated with monsoonal rain patterns, the study period also encompassed a drought and a one-in-a-hundred-year flood. Rainfall and discharge did not necessarily reflect the actual conditions in the stream. Although surface waters were persistent long after discharge ceased, the streambed was completely dry on several occasions. Shallow groundwater was present at variable depths throughout the study period, being absent only at the height of the drought. The streambed sediments were mainly gravels, sand and clay. Finer sediment fractions showed a marked change in grain size over time, although bedload movement was limited to a single high discharge event. In response to a low discharge regimen (drought), sediments characteristically showed non-normal distributions and were dominated by finer materials. A high-energy discharge event produced a coarsening of sands and a diminished clay fraction in the streambed. Particulate organic matter from sediments showed trends of build-up and decline with the high and low discharge regimes, respectively. Within the surface sediment intersticies three potential categories of invertebrate habitat were recognised, each with dynamic spatial and temporal boundaries.
Aquatic Sciences - Research Across Boundaries