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Keywords:

  • River regulation;
  • Flooding frequency;
  • Floodplain sediments;
  • Microcrustaceans;
  • Rotifers;
  • Biomass;
  • River;
  • Murray;
  • Australia

Abstract

Regulation of lowland rivers often alienates large areas of the floodplain, altering the natural regime of flooding frequency, duration, and magnitude. The extent to which such changes alter the productivity of river-floodplain ecosystems and the contribution of aquatic invertebrates emerging from dry floodplain sediments is unknown. To examine this in a section of the River Murray in South Australia, fourteen replicate sods of dry sediment collected from four areas of the floodplain that had experienced different average flood recurrence frequencies (annually, 1 in 7, 1 in 11, and 1 in 22 years) were inundated in the laboratory, simulating flooding. Invertebrates emerging from the dry sediments were sampled with replacement 1, 2, 3, 7, 10, 14, 21, and 28 days after inundation, enabling comparisons of temporal changes in faunal composition and biomass. The greatest biomass and numbers of invertebrates emerged from annually-flooded sods whereas sediments usually flooded once in 22 years yielded only protozoans. Large numbers of cladocerans and rotifers were recorded within two days of inundation whereas ostracods were not numerous until two weeks later. Heterogeneity in faunal composition and biomass among replicates probably reflected patchiness in microtopography and resting stage settlement, and variable hatching ‘strategies’. Although experimental conditions rapidly diverged from the natural situation over time because of the unrealistic constraints of enclosure, results suggest a potentially significant contribution by emergent invertebrates to the newly-inundated floodplain foodweb. Reducing floodplain inundation frequency through regulation and flood mitigation probably severely reduces this reserve, removing a food resource for young fish and other predators.