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Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Biology and Microbiology

First Advisor

Nels H. Troelstrup, Jr.


Recent literature has stressed the importance of headwater streams in freshwater ecosystem health and biodiversity. These streams contribute a globally significant amount of runoff, nutrients, and biological diversity to downstream rivers and lakes. Over half of stream kilometers assessed in South Dakota did not meet their beneficial uses and headwater streams may be an initial source of impairments. Many headwater streams are intermittent and contain flowing water seasonally. Intermittent streams comprise over 90% (136,800 kilometers) of river kilometers in South Dakota. Intermittent streams typically progress from flowing water conditions to interstitial, pooled, and dry streambed depending on local climate. Physicochemical characteristics change along with the hydrologic condition. This alters macroinvertebrate communities as in-stream conditions become too harsh for certain species. The objectives of this research were to describe the hydroperiod (flow duration), macroinvertebrate communities and identify changes in physicochemical parameters and community composition associated with different hydrologic conditions in intermittent streams. Sixty intermittent headwater streams were selected in South Dakota’s Northern Glaciated Plains (NGP) ecoregion. Streams were located within 7 level IV ecoregions including the Big Sioux Basin, Drift Plains, Glacial Lake Basins, James River Lowland, Minnesota River Prairie, Prairie Coteau and Prairie Coteau Escarpment. All study sites were 1st-3rd Strahler Order (1st NHDPlus), with watershed areas ≤6 km2, defined bed and bank features, intermittent flow most years, and none were lake outlets. Macroinvertebrates and physicochemical parameters were sampled monthly at each site from April−August or until streams dried. A quantitative bucket technique and petite 500-μm dip net were used to collect macroinvertebrate samples. Streams began to flow in April following spring snowmelt and 83% of streams were either pooled or dry by early September; one sampling site remained dry throughout. The majority of drying occurred in June and July. HOBO (Onset Inc.) temperature loggers were used to track daily temperature amplitudes and allowed the detection of drying dates. Streams commonly fluctuated between hydrologic phases and several study sites were re-wetted after initial drying. Dissolved oxygen significantly decreased and water temperature increased as streams entered the pooled phase. Conductivity, total dissolved solids, total kjehldahl nitrogen (TKN) and total phosphorus had highest means while streams were in the pooled phase. Ammonia, total Kjehldahl nitrogen, and total phosphorus all increased significantly in pooled phases. A significant decrease in total suspended solids, turbidity, and chloride were also seen as stream drying progressed. A total of 199 genera from 20 orders and 75 families of aquatic invertebrates were identified from 40 reference sites within the NGP. Aedes (Culicidae), Pseudosuccinea (Lymnaeidae), Paraleptophlebia (Leptophlebiidae), Micropsectra (Chironomidae), and Tvetnia (Chironomidae) were the most abundant invertebrates collected. Burrowers and collector-gatherers were the most abundant habit and functional feeding guild found, comprising 42% and 66% of total abundance, respectively. The average Hilsenhoff Biotic Index score for sites was 6.9 and 50% of invertebrate taxa found are considered intolerant of organic pollution. Changes in macroinvertebrate abundance and community structure during the study period were coupled with changing hydrologic states. Pooled streams had the lowest macroinvertebrate abundance, significantly lower Diptera and Trichoptera abundance, and significantly lower burrower and collector-gatherer abundance. Hilsenhoff Biotic Index scores were highest in pooled streams but did not differ significantly from flowing and interstitial streams. Aedes (Culicidae), Pseudosuccinea (Lymnaeidae), Paraleptophlebia (Leptophlebiidae), Hydrobaenus (Chironomidae), Sphaerium (Sphaeriidae), and Diplocladius (Chironomidae) were found in high numbers while streams were in the pooled phase despite high water temperatures and low dissolved oxygen concentrations. Several taxa were characterized as having fast seasonal life cycles, high dispersal ability, and the ability to diapause. These attributes allow for survival in intermittent streams and make community composition unique from perennial streams and rivers. Changes in stream physicochemical properties and community structure through hydrologic phases must be considered when designing bioassessment studies in headwaters.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Freshwater invertebrates -- South Dakota
Ephemeral streams -- South Dakota
Stream ecology -- South Dakota


Includes bibliographical references



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


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