Sensitivity and Tolerance of Riparian Arthropod Communities to Altered Water Resources along a Drying River
Rivers around the world are drying with increasing frequency, but little is known about effects on terrestrial animal communities. Previous research along the San Pedro River in southeastern AZ, USA, suggests that changes in the availability of water resources associated with river drying lead to changes in predator abundance, community composition, diversity, and abundance of particular taxa of arthropods, but these observations have not yet been tested manipulatively.
Methods and Results
In this study, we constructed artificial pools in the stream bed adjacent to a drying section of the San Pedro River and maintained them as the river dried. We compared pitfall trapped arthropods near artificial pools to adjacent control sites where surface waters temporarily dried. Assemblage composition changed differentially at multiple taxonomic levels, resulting in different assemblages at pools than at control sites, with multiple taxa and richness of carabid beetle genera increasing at pools but not at controls that dried. On the other hand, predator biomass, particularly wolf spiders, and diversity of orders and families were consistently higher at control sites that dried. These results suggest an important role for colonization dynamics of pools, as well as the ability of certain taxa, particularly burrowing wolf spiders, to withstand periods of temporary drying.
Overall, we found some agreement between this manipulative study of water resources and a previous analysis of river drying that showed shifts in composition, changes in diversity, and declines in abundance of certain taxa (e.g. carabid beetles). However, colonization dynamics of pools, as well as compensatory strategies of predatory wolf spiders seem to have led to patterns that do not match previous research, with control sites maintaining high diversity, despite drying. Tolerance of river drying by some species may allow persistence of substantial diversity in the face of short-term drying. The long-term effects of drying remain to be investigated.