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Title: Effects of sedimentation and turbidity on lotic food webs: a concise review for natural resource managers

Author: Henley, W.F.; Patterson, M.A.; Neves, R.J.; Lemly, A. Dennis.;

Date: 2000

Source: Reviews in Fisheries Science. 8(2): 125-139.

Publication Series: Miscellaneous Publication

Description: Sedimentation and turbidity are significant contributors to declines in populations of North American aquatic organisms. Impacts to lotic fauna may be expressed through pervasive alterations in local food chains beginning at the primary trophic level. Decreases in primary production are associated with increases in sedimentation and turbidity and produce negative cascading effects through depleted food availability to zooplankton, insects, freshwater mollusks, and fish. Direct effects at each trophic level are mortality, reduced physiological function, and avoidance; however, decreases in available food at trophic levels also result in depressed rates of growth, reproduction, and recruitment. Impacts of turbidity to aquatic organisms often seem inconsistent among watersheds and experiments, but this apparent difference is actually due to the lack of correlation between suspended sediment concentrations (mg/L) and units of measure (Nephelometric Turbidity Units, NTU). The use of NTU as a surrogate measurement of suspended sediment to predict biotic effects within watersheds is dubious. Similar NTU measurements from different watersheds may be correlated with different concentrations of suspended sediment. For monitoring the effects of turbidity within local watersheds, we recommend that the correlation between suspended sediment and NTU’s be examined over a range of discharge recordings, and that this be used as a baseline to examine local effects. We recommend that riparian buffer strips and livestock fencing be used to reduce sediment input to streams.

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Henley, W.F.; Patterson, M.A.; Neves, R.J.; Lemly, A. Dennis. 2000. Effects of sedimentation and turbidity on lotic food webs: a concise review for natural resource managers. Reviews in Fisheries Science. 8(2): 125-139.


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