A survey of stream invertebrates in the Cow Green basin (Upper Teesdale) before inundation


Dr P. D. Armitage, Moor House, Field Station, Garrigill, Alston, Cumberland, England.


In 1967 a programme was initiated by the Freshwater Biological Association to study fish populations within the proposed Cow Green reservoir basin and in the Tees downstream of the dam, before and after impoundment. This paper describes the result of a supporting study on aquatic invertebrates covering the pre-impoundment period 1967–70.

The benthic faunas of six streams in the reservoir basin, the Tees below Cauldron Snout and Maize Beck, a tributary ofthe Tees below the dam, were studied. Species list are presented for each habitat and changes in seasonal and annual abundance are discussed.

All areas sampled lie at altitudes between 440 and 550 m O.D. and are situated amongst moorland and limestone grassland. Conditions in the streams ranged from slow-flowing peaty reaches to small streams with moss-covered bottoms and larger stony rivers and streams with relatively unstable bottoms.

Samples were taken in riffles and pools using the ‘kick’ method wherever possible. An attempt was made to quantify kick-sample catches by comparing them with shovel-sample catches which cover a known area of stream bottom. It was found that 10 5 kicks gave a catch equivalent to the populations of 1 m2, giving a population density of about 1200 animals/m for the reservoir-basin riffles.

Over 120 taxa were recorded, 100 of which were at the species level. In the reservoir-basin streams, 116 taxa were found with seventy-one in Maize Beck and fifty-six in the Tees below Cauldron Snout. Ephemeroptera were the most abundant group in the reservoir basin and Maize Beck faunas with Rhithrogena semicohrata, Heptagenia lateralis and Baetidae being the most abundant forms, although Ecdyonurus spp. especially E. dispar were much more common in Maize Beck. In other groups Leuctra spp. and Gammarus pulex were very common. In the Tees below Cauldron Snout Limnaea peregra, Chironomidae and Baetidae formed the bulk of the fauna and Plecoptera were uncommon. Amongst the reservoir basin streams Weelhead Sike supported the largest number of species and species groups (eighty-one), and all the streams had forty-nine or more taxa represented.

Information on seasonal changes in the numbers of those species or species groups composing 90% or more of the total fauna is presented. Faunal density was high in May with Ephemeroptera, particularly Ecdyonuridae, and the plecopteran Leuctra inermis being the most abundant forms. In August, the numbers of animals appeared t o fall and common members of the community were Baetidae, Diptera, Leuctra fusca and Ecdyonuridae. In October, Ecdyonuridae particularly R. semicolorata, were most abundant.

A comparison ofthe bottom fauna of riffles and pools was made and more animals were found in riffles than in pools.

The effect of gravel extraction on the bottom fauna of the Tees was examined. A severe drop in the numbers of animals was observed after extraction. Diptera were the first group to return to their pre-disturbance density. Elminthidae and Annelida were worst affected and slowest to recover.

The fauna of the area is discussed and possible reasons for its relative species richness are put forward. Habitat diversity and chemical richness appear to be the most likely reasons for the relatively large number of species found.