Mayfly production in a New Zealand glacial stream and the potential effect of climate change

MJ Winterbourn, S Cadbury, C Ilg, Alexander Milner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

30 Citations (Scopus)


In contrast to the northern hemisphere where species of Chironomidae are usually the dominant benthic invertebrates in the coldest upper reaches of glacial streams, mayflies (Deleatidium spp.: Leptophlebiidae) predominate in equivalent conditions in New Zealand. We examined the life histories and annual production of Deleatidium spp. at two sites on the Matukituki River (South Island, New Zealand) and at three sites in its glacier-fed tributary, Rob Roy Stream. Mean annual water temperature at the five sites ranged from 2.1 to 7.0 degrees C. Monthly sampling showed that mayfly populations were poorly synchronised at all sites but were probably univoltine. The large Deleatidium cornutum was the dominant mayfly species found at the upper sites (Sites 1 and 2) on Rob Roy Stream, whereas above the confluence with Matukituki River (Site 3) it co-existed with a complex of smaller species we refer to as D. "angustum". Deleatidium "angustum" also dominated at the Matukituki sites. Deleatidium production calculated for the five sites, assuming an 11-month nymphal life, ranged from 0.48 g dry weight/m(2)/year (Site 1) to 3.07 g dry weight/m(2)/year (Site 3). The values for D. cornutum at Sites 2 and 3 are high for a species of Deleatidium and reflect its large size. This species appears to be strongly adapted for growth at low temperatures. Climate change scenarios for New Zealand predict the gradual and ultimate loss of small South Island glaciers and a consequent warming of streams as runoff from rainfall and snow melt becomes more dominant in spring. As a result, suitable habitats will be lost for cold-water specialists such as D. cornutum, and they are likely to suffer reductions in their distributional range and local extinction. In contrast, species such as those in the D. "angustum" complex may extend their ranges into streams formerly dominated by glacial meltwater.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-219
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008


  • secondary production
  • ephemeroptera
  • streams
  • Deleatidium
  • New Zealand
  • global warming


Dive into the research topics of 'Mayfly production in a New Zealand glacial stream and the potential effect of climate change'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this