Adult aquatic insects: potential contributors to riparian food webs in Australia's wet-dry tropics
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Changes in the abundance and biomass of aquatic and terrestrial aerial insects with distance (mid-stream, 0, 10-15 and 160 m) from lowland streams were examined across the dry season landscape in Kakadu National Park, northern Australia. Malaise traps and sticky intercept traps were used to sample the insects at four streams, spaced over an area of 1650 km2. Malaise and intercept catches were dominated by Diptera (flies and midges), both numerically and by biomass. Chironomid midges were the most abundant taxon, making up 43.4 and 51.0% of the malaise and intercept trap catches, respectively. However, most chironomids were small (less than 3 mm body length), contributing 34.9% to intercept trap biomass, but only 5.2% in malaise traps. Ceratopogonid midges and caddisflies (Trichoptera) accounted for most of the remaining adult aquatic insects. Major terrestrial components were Diptera and Hymenoptera in malaise traps and Coleoptera and Diptera in intercept traps. The total abundance and biomass of insects were much greater over streams and along the water's edge than in riparian (10-15 m) and savanna (160 m) habitats primarily because of the presence of large numbers of adult aquatic insects. The abundance and biomass of terrestrial insects in malaise traps showed no relationship with distance, but intercept trap catches suggested slightly greater abundances over the water and at the water's edge. The great abundance of aquatic insects relative to terrestrial insects close to streams suggests that they have the potential to be an important component of the diets of riparian insectivores, and predation may be an important pathway by which aquatic nutrients and energy are moved into terrestrial food webs.
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