Patch occupancy of stream fauna across a land cover gradient in the southern Appalachians, USA
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We modeled patch occupancy to examine factors that best predicted the prevalence of four functionally important focal stream consumers (Tallaperla spp., Cambarus spp., Pleurocera proxima, and Cottus bairdi) among 37 reaches within the Little Tennessee River basin of the southern Appalachian Mountains, USA. We compared 34 models of patch occupancy to examine the association of catchment and reach scale factors that varied as a result of converting forest to agricultural or urban land use. Occupancy of our taxa was linked to parameters reflecting both catchment and reach extent characteristics. At the catchment level, forest cover or its conversion to agriculture was a major determinant of occupancy for all four taxa. Patch occupancies of Tallaperla, Cambarus, and C. bairdi were positively, and Pleurocera negatively, correlated with forest cover. Secondarily at the reach level, local availability of large woody debris was important for Cambarus, availability of large cobble substrate was important for C. bairdi, and stream calcium concentration was important for P. proxima. Our results show the abundance of stream organisms was determined by the taxon-dependent interplay between catchment- and reach-level factors.
KeywordsAppalachians Consumers Land use Patch occupancy Stream chemistry
This study was part of the Coweeta Long Term Ecological Research study funded by National Science Foundation DEB0823293. It was supported by the Odum School of Ecology and the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Georgia. D. Hung, C. Kresl, L. Long, J. McMillan, J. Milanovich, S. Evans, S. Vulova, J. Cosgrove, and others provided critical field work. F. Benfield, D. Leigh, M. Valett, and J. Webster led collection of stream chemistry data. J. Hepinstall-Cymerman determined land cover in each catchment. J. Chamblee, K. Love, J. McDonald, and R. Benson produced the study area graphic. The USDA Forest Service provided key logistical support. M. Freeman, M. Snyder, S. Wenger, the Pringle lab, N. Bond, and three anonymous reviewers provided valuable comments on the manuscript.
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