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Macroinvertebrate community response to natural and forest harvest gradients in western Oregon headwater streams


Alan Herlihy, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Oregon State University, 104 Nash Hall, Corvallis, OR 97331, U.S.A. E-mail:


1. To examine the effects of forest harvest practices on headwater stream macroinvertebrates, we compiled a 167 site database with macroinvertebrate, fish, physical habitat and catchment land cover data from the three forested ecoregions in western Oregon. For our analysis, headwater streams were defined by catchment areas <10 km2 and perennial water during summer low flows. Almost all sites in the database were selected using a randomised survey design, constituting a representative sample of headwater streams in these ecoregions.

2. Macroinvertebrate taxonomic and functional feeding group composition were very similar among the three ecoregions in the study area (Coast Range, Cascades and Klamath Mountains). On average, 55% of the individuals at each site were in the orders Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera or Trichoptera. Dipteran taxa (mostly chironomids) accounted for another 34%. At almost all sites, non-insects made up <10% of the macroinvertebrate assemblage. Almost half (49%) of the assemblages were collectors; remaining individuals were about evenly divided among scrapers, shredders and predators.

3. There were 189 different macroinvertebrate taxa at the 167 sites with richness at individual sites ranging from 7 to 71 taxa. Ordination by non-metric multidimensional scaling revealed a strong association between % Ephemeroptera, especially Baetis, and site scores along the first axis. This axis was also strongly related to % coarse substratum and fast water habitat. The second axis was strongly related to % intolerant individuals, site slope and altitude. No strong relationships were evident between any ordination axis and either logging activity, presence/absence of fish, catchment size or ecoregion.

4. Based on macroinvertebrate index of biotic integrity (IBI) scores, 62% of the sites had no impairment, 31% of the sites had slight impairment and only 6% of the sites had moderate or severe impairment. IBI scores were not strongly related to forest harvest history. All four severely impaired sites and five of the seven sites with moderate impairment were lower altitude, shallower slope stream reaches located in the Coast Range with evidence of agricultural activity in their catchment or riparian zone. % sand + fine substratum was the environmental variable most strongly related to macroinvertebrate IBI.

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