Influence of environmental stability of groundwater-fed streams on hyporheic fauna, on a glacial floodplain, Denali National Park, Alaska

Jill Crossman*, Christopher Bradley, Alexander Milner, Gilles Pinay

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Macroinvertebrate community distributions were investigated within the benthic and hyporheic zone of five groundwater-fed streams, on a floodplain terrace, in a glacierized catchment in Alaska, in summer 2008. The streams were characterized by a distinct gradient in environmental instability and provided an opportunity to determine whether the local variability in environmental instability of groundwater-fed streams (reflecting differences in lengths of groundwater flow pathways) are of sufficient magnitude and frequency to influence macroinvertebrate community distribution. Individual measures of surface-water temperature, streamflow, streambed stability and sediment size were incorporated into a multivariate index of environmental instability (IEI), using principal components analysis. In the hyporheic zone, a logarithmic association was observed between macroinvertebrate diversity and IEI and a quadratic association between abundance and IEI. The increase in diversity along the gradient of instability reflected a greater evenness of taxa caused by reduction in abundance of Chironomidae, combined with an increase in abundance of several less dominant taxa (Limnephilidae, Empididae, Baetidae and Simuliidae). At the surface, a quadratic association between diversity and IEI was observed, consistent with the intermediate disturbance hypothesis.

Chironomidae, Nemouridae and Empididae presented contrasting surface and hyporheic distributions, indicating use of the hyporheic zone as a refuge. Moreover, covariance in the surface and hyporheic distribution of Limnephilidae and Chloroperlidae suggested the use of the hyporheic zone as an extension of the benthic habitat. The data indicate that local variability in environmental conditions between groundwater-fed streams is sufficient to induce differences in macroinvertebrate communities and in the response of individual taxa.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)548-559
Number of pages12
JournalRiver Research and Applications
Issue number5
Early online date10 Jan 2012
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


  • macroinvertebrates
  • hyporheic zone
  • groundwater
  • environmental instability
  • refugia


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