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Macroinvertebrates are organisms that lack a spine and are large enough to be seen with the naked eye. Examples of macroinvertebrates include flatworms, crayfish, snails, clams and insects, such as dragonflies. Many aquatic insects live as juveniles, called nymphsor larvae, in the water, and become flying insects as adults.
Some types of macroinvertebrates are extremely tolerant of changes in temperature, flow, food or even the presence of pollutants, while other types are so sensitive to these changes that they may die or move to other areas. In this activity, students identify the macroinvertebrates in a stream. By noting which types are most abundant and which of the sensitive species are missing, we can learn a lot about present and past conditions of the stream.
Aquatic macroinvertebrates or aquatic insects are found in lakes, streams, ponds, marshes and puddles and help maintain the health of the water ecosystem by eating bacteria and dead, decaying plants and animals. Local populations of certain aquatic macroinvertebrates are indicator species of high quality water. They are indicator of overall aquatic conditions. For the purpose of analyzing the effects of forest management activities, the primary habitat requirement for aquatic macroinvertebrates is perennial water which supports resident trout.
Aquatic insects collectively show a wide range of tolerance to environmental conditions. Riparian vegetation conditions, temperature, hydraulics and substrate composition all change under natural conditions and in response the aquatic invertebrate communities generally reflect those changes. Various locations within a stream are likely to also have a range of conditions that dictate which aquatic invertebrate species are found there. Some taxa or species are more tolerant or have a wider range of acceptable habitat conditions than others.
macroinvertebrates are divided into three categories according to their dissolved oxygen requirements. These three categories are sensitive, somewhat sensitive, and tolerant. Species in the sensitive category require streams that have high levels of dissolved oxygen, which support species such as mayflies, stoneflies, and water pennies.
Life Cycle: Insects begin their life cycle as an egg, then go through physical changes with each stage in their life cycle (metamorphosis). Some insects, like Caddisflies, have four stages in their life cyclecalled complete metamorphosis. The mayflies and stoneflies are examples of insects have only three stages in their life cycle. This is called incomplete metamorphosis. Insects look and exist differentlyat each stage.
Many aquatic insects you see are nymphs or larvae (juveniles). Some of the body parts of these creatures are similar to terrestrial (land-based) insects. They have three body parts (head, thorax and abdomen), three pairs of legs and a set of antennae. Some larvae will have unique structures, like gills, tails and distinct mouthparts.
POPULATION TREND AND VIABILITY : Macroinvertebrate communities are used to display changes from management activities or natural effects and can decline or recover quickly or in the long-term, depending on the type and duration of the impact. Overall, diverse communities of aquatic macroinvertebrates are represented Forest-wide, and are considered stable unless an influence or significant event affects a local or given reach of stream. Most populations, however, can quickly recover.
Because of the volatile fluctuations that can occur in most aquatic macroinvertebrate populations, trends by numbers are of little value unless long-term studies show persistent changes. Persistent absences or declines or in some cases appearances of certain benthic organisms may also indicate a change in aquatic health. Population trends for aquatic macroinvertebrates on the Carson National Forest appear to be stable, although additional time is necessary to determine a more reliable indication of trend.Aquatic macroinvertebrate surveys and analysis have been conducted on several streams within the Forest. Representative streams and sample points within those systems have been selected for aquatic macroinvertebrate sampling.
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