Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Scott Grubbs (Director),Dr. Albert Meier,Dr. Doug McElroy

Degree Program

Department of Biology

Degree Type

Master of Science in Biology


This research assessed the influence of hydrologic gradients on woody debris dynamics in a Cumberland Plateau watershed, eastern Kentucky, U.S.A. Although the breakdown of wood can be attributed to several different processes, including leaching, biological decay, fragmentation, and transport, the influence of differing flow regimes has been unstudied. The objectives of this study were to examine how stream channel type (temporary vs. perennial) affected wood processing dynamics (i.e., mass loss and macroinvertebrate colonization and standing stock patterns). Two questions were addressed: (1) do mass loss rates of wood differ across hydrological gradients in stream channels?, and (2) do macroinvertebrate colonization and standing stock patterns vary in relation to hydrologic gradients? Although within each channel type both dry mass and ash free dry mass loss followed a negative exponential model (p < 0.05), there wasn’t a significant between-channel difference in mass loss rates (p > 0.05). Breakdown rates (-k) ranged from 0.133 – 0.194year-1 for perennial streams compared to 0.103 – 0.170year-1 in the temporary streams. Collector-gathers comprised the greatest proportion of macroinvertebrates, accounting for 65.5% (temporary) and 59.3% (perennial) of all taxa colonizing wood bundles, followed by shredders (16.1%, 16.8%), predators (16.8%, 20.1%), (scrapers < 0.1% in both reaches) and filtering collectors (1.2%, 3.7%). Overall, there were no significant between-channel differences for total macroinvertebrate abundance, total macroinvertebrate biomass, and similarly for abundance and biomass of all functional groups. There was a trend, however, of decreasing density and biomass over time of collector-gathers and shredders on wood. Overall, hydrological gradients had no effects on short-term breakdown rates of woody debris or macroinvertebrate colonization patterns. Studies of wood breakdown have been shown to require long study periods (≥ 5 years), therefore, future studies of hydrological gradient may show differing results for woody debris breakdown.


Forest Sciences | Wood Science and Pulp, Paper Technology