Aquatic insects as an energetic subsidy to riparian consumers in the Olman River Basin, Alberta

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Becker, Allison L.
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Lethbridge, Alta. : University of Lethbridge, Dept. of Biological Sciences, c2012
Freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems are connected through biomass exchanges such as the flow of predators, prey, nutrients and detritus between them. Emerging aquatic insects provide an alternate food source to riparian consumers often termed an allochthonous subsidy. Stable isotope analyses of naturally occurring carbon and nitrogen is effective for tracing energetic food sources to consumers. This thesis evaluated whether stable isotope analysis would be effective in the Oldman River Basin, Alberta. Aquatic and riparian primary consumers are distinct in their isotopic signatures and valid for to use in stable isotope analysis. Stable isotope modelling was then used to evaluate the proportional contribution of aquatic insects to riparian spider and beetle diets. Carbon analysis showed an overall aquatic insect contribution of 25 % and 18 % for spiders and beetles, respectively; while nitrogen analysis showed an overall contribution of 36 % and 20 %, respectively. The spatial extent of the aquatic insect contribution upland from the river was shown to decrease from 50 - 55 % at 1 m to 0 % at 30 m for both consumers using carbon, and from 35 - 40 % at 1 m to 0 % at 40 m using nitrogen. Finally, regression modelling of the size of a river and the spatial scale of an aquatic insect dietary contribution showed a significant relationship, indicating larger water bodies support higher production of aquatic insects. A meta-analysis of published literature applied to this model also indicated a significant relationship between the size of the river and the extent of an aquatic insect contribution.
xii, 126 leaves m ; 29 cm
Aquatic insects -- Alberta -- Oldman River Basin , Food chains (Ecology) -- Alberta -- Oldman River Basin , Riparian ecology -- Alberta -- Oldman River Basin , Oldman River Basin (Alta.) , Dissertations, Academic