Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Scott A. Grubbs (Director), Albert J. Meier, Jason S. Polk

Degree Program

Department of Biology

Degree Type

Master of Science


Surface streams in karst landscapes are often characterized by high nutrient levels due to incomplete filtration through series of innumerable, below-ground conduits. Seasonal growth of the filamentous alga, Cladophora, is typically associated with nutrient-rich waters. This research compared macroinvertebrate food web structure between riverine reaches with contrasting underlying karst topography, nutrient levels, and Cladophora cover during summer 2012 and autumn 2013. Recent work in these reaches found a high correlation between Cladophora cover and nutrient content, particularly nitrate. Four questions were addressed during this study: 1. Do longitudinal trends in algal and consumer δ13C values relate to decreased DIC availability in larger watersheds? 2. Are trophic niche breadths narrower in more karstified reaches than in less karstified reaches due to longitudinal differences in Cladophora standing stocks? 3. Do differences in trophic-dynamic relationships between primary consumers and their food resources reflect the marked distinction in Cladophora standing stocks in two sections of the upper Green River that flow through differing levels of karstification? 4. Are consumers assimilating primarily autochthonous or allochthonous food resources? Consumers and algae became more 13C-depleted in downstream reaches, which is opposite to published data in other streams. Underlying causes for this pattern are uncertain, but one plausible cause is an increase in DIC availability downstream. Karstrelated hydrology may potentially alter or even reverse normal longitudinal gradients within in-stream producer and subsequently, consumer δ13C values. Since consumers were sampled during low-Cladophora conditions during 2013 and within a few weeks of the onset of the Cladophora bloom in 2012, stable isotopic results may be more representative of primary consumer diets during pre- Cladophora bloom periods. Although Cladophora cover was significantly higher in downstream reaches during both years, food-web structure was similar in all reaches. Consumer niche breadth was similar across reaches, and mixing model analyses suggested that primary consumers in all reaches assimilated similar amounts of Cladophora. The contribution of both autochthonous and allochthonous food resources to the assimilated diet of primary consumers appeared to be similarly important. These results suggest that allochthonous resources may be important in some midreach food webs, especially during periods of low algal growth.


Biology | Geology | Hydrology | Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology