Colonisation of Introduced Timber by Algae and Invertebrates, and its Potential Role in Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration
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As part of a habitat restoration experiment wood substrates (red gum) were introduced to two lowland streams of SE Australia in which habitat has been severely degraded by deposition of sand eroded from higher in the catchment. We monitored net primary production (NPP) and community respiration (CR), nutrient concentrations and the succession of algae and invertebrates (abundance and species richness), sampling at 2, 4, 8, 12, 16 and 20 weeks. Colonisation by algae was rapid, and there were distinct changes in the assemblages over the first 4 weeks. Thereafter, changes were much less marked. There were also differences in nutrient concentrations and some measures of algal abundance between the two creeks. As with the algae, invertebrates colonised these substrates extremely rapidly, peaking in abundance and richness in week 8. Invertebrate abundances closely tracked changes in the abundance of algae. By the end of the study both algal and invertebrate communities were in apparent decline, with sharp decreases in invertebrate and algal abundance and invertebrate species richness. Rates of GPP also declined toward the end of the experiment, and this coincided with the detachment of large mats of filamentous algae and the recession of flows over the summer months. However, in both streams the added timber quickly created habitat with high levels of primary production in an otherwise strongly heterotrophic stream system. These hotspots of autotrophic production were quickly colonised by high numbers of macroinvertebrates indicating timber addition may provide an effective means of augmenting habitat for algae and invertebrates in sanded streams.