Immediate and longer-term effects of managed flooding on floodplain invertebrate assemblages in south-eastern Australia: generation and maintenance of a mosaic landscape


Andrea Ballinger, Australian Centre for Biodiversity, School of Biological Sciences, Building 18, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria 3800, Australia.


1. We compared assemblages of ground-active, terrestrial beetles and spiders from different areas of river red gum Eucalyptus camaldulensis floodplain forest in subhumid, south-eastern Australia before and for 2 years following a managed flood to determine whether the Flood Pulse Concept is an appropriate ecological model for this regulated, lowland river-floodplain system.

2. Immediately following flooding, the abundance, species richness and biomass of beetles were greatest at sites that had been inundated for the longest period (approximately 4 months). The abundance, species richness and biomass of spiders were not reduced at sites that were flooded for 4 months compared with unflooded or briefly flooded areas. Sites recently flooded for several months had high densities of predatory, hygrophilic beetles (Carabidae) and spiders (Lycosidae).

3. Over the 2 years following the flood, beetles generally were more abundant at sites that had been inundated for longer. At all sampling times, the species richness of beetles at sites increased with the length of time sites were inundated, even before the flood. Neither the abundance nor species richness of spiders was related to duration of flooding.

4. The structure of beetle and spider assemblages at sites that were flooded for different lengths of time did not appear to converge monotonically over the 2 years after the flood.

5. Managed flooding promotes diversity of beetles and spiders both by providing conditions that create a ‘pulse’ in populations of hygrophilic specialists in the short term, and by creating subtle, persistent changes in forest-floor conditions. Despite its monotypic canopy, river red gum floodplain forest is a habitat mosaic generated by differing inundation histories.