Great Basin Naturalist


The effects of suspended sediments on stream invertebrate detrital processing were investigated under replicated conditions in light and temperature-controlled chambers in the laboratory. The leaf-shredding insects Pteronarcys californica and Hesperophylax occidentalis were studied. Mean daily ingestion rates were lower among insects subjected to suspended sediments (1.5 and 3.0 g/l) than insects held in suspended sediment-free environments for seven of the eight trials. In five of the eight trials, mean ingestion rates were suppressed by ≥41% when compared to insects held in suspended sediment-free environments. Feeding inhibition was typically greater at the end of the feeding trials (14 days) than at the beginning (0–4 days). The effects of suspended sediments on ingestion were apparently related to the feeding status of the insects at the time of a trial. Insects in an active feeding mode were less influenced by suspended sediment than those in an inactive feeding mode. We conclude that, depending on the season and the duration of impact, suspended sediment can suppress processing of coarse particulate organic matter and thus adversely influence important nutrient and energy pathways in low-order streams.