Date of Award

8-1993

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Environmental Science and Biology

Abstract

Changes in abundance and diversity of benthic macroinvertebrates inhabiting a natural cobble and artificial reef substrate in southwestern Lake Ontario were quantified following invasion of the zebra mussel, Dreissena polymorpha. Post-zebra mussel invasion data (1991-92) were statistically compared with pre-invasion data (1983) from the same sites. By 1991-92 zebra mussels comprised 73% and 90% of cobble and artificial reef macroinvertebrates, respectively, replacing the amphipod Gammarus fasciatus as the numerically dominant taxon at both sites. Overall abundance of non-zebra mussel taxa was significantly greater (p < 0.05) at cobble and artificial reef sites in 1991-92, than in 1983 before zebra mussels were present. Taxa exhibiting significant population increases at the cobble site during the time period separating the two studies were the annelids Manayunkia speciosa, Spirosperma ferox and unidentified tubificids; the gastropods Helisoma anceps,Physa heterostropha, Stagnicola catascopium, Valvata tricarinata, Goniobasis livescens and Amnicola limosa; and the arthropods Gammarus fasciatus and Orconectes propinquis. Significant population increases of Physa heterostropha, Goniobasis livescens, Amnicola limosa, Gammarus fasciatus and the trichopteran Polycentropus were observed at the artificial reef site. Although a few taxa sampled infrequently in 1983 were not collected in 1991-92, no taxa have decreased significantly since 1983. Comparisons of community composition in 1983 and 1991-92 suggest the cobble community has changed more than the artificial reef community. These changes are likely positive, as species richness was greater at cobble and artificial reef sites in 1991-92 relative to 1983, and Simpson's Diversity showed no decline. Though other factors may have contributed to observed native macroinvertebrate community changes, my results support theories that zebra mussels are facilitating energy transfer to the benthos by filter-feeding, and that mussel shoals are providing additional habitat for native invertebrate taxa.

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