Large River Food Webs: Influence of Nutrients, Turbidity, and Flow, and Implications for Management
MetadataShow full item record
Humans impact rivers in many ways that modify ecological processes yielding ecosystem services. In order to mitigate anthropogenic impacts, scientists are challenged to understand interactions among physicochemical factors affecting large river food webs. An understanding of socioeconomic factors also is critical for ecosystem management. In this dissertation, I explore spatiotemporal patterns in floodplain river food webs and political barriers to management of environmental flows, an important factor influencing river ecology. In Chapter II, I reviewed the scientific literature to test conceptual models of river food webs and predictions of environmental factors that might produce variation in basal production sources supporting consumer biomass. My review indicates that algae are the predominant production source for large rivers worldwide, but consumers assimilate C3 plants in rivers 1) with high sediment loads and low transparency during high flow pulses, 2) with high dissolved organic matter concentrations, and 3) following periods of high discharge or leaf litter fall that increase the amount of terrestrial material in the particulate organic matter pool. In Chapter III, I descrobe field research conducted to examine relationships among hydrology, nutrient concentrations, turbidity, and algal primary production and biomass in the littoral zone of five rivers in Texas, Peru, and Venezuela differing in physicochemical conditions. I used stable isotope signatures to estimate contributions of algal-versus terrestrial-based production sources to consumers during different hydrologic periods. My research indicates that during flow pulses in floodplain rivers, a decrease in algal biomass and productivity, combined with increased inputs of terrestrial organic matter, can result in increased terrestrial support of metazoan consumers in the aquatic food web. In 2007, Texas Senate Bill 3 directed that environmental flow recommendations be developed for river basins. Despite emphasis on use of the "best available science" to develop environmental flow regimes and "stakeholder involvement" to address needs of all water users, for the first two basins to complete the SB3 process, final environmental flow rules did not mimic a natural flow regime. In Chapter IV, I reviewed this process, concluding that incentives for river authorities to increase compromise with diverse stakeholders should result in more sustainable management of freshwater.
Roach, Katherine (2012). Large River Food Webs: Influence of Nutrients, Turbidity, and Flow, and Implications for Management. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from