Potential physical effects of suspended fine sediment on lotic macroinvertebrates

Morwenna Mckenzie, K.L. Mathers, Paul Wood, Judy England, Ian D.L. Foster, Damian Lawler, Martin Wilkes

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    18 Citations (Scopus)
    90 Downloads (Pure)


    This study investigates the potential for physical damage caused by suspended fine sediment on gills of three macroinvertebrate species, Hydropsyche siltalai, Ephemera danica and Ecdyonurus venosus. Macroinvertebrate cadavers were exposed to three suspended sediment concentrations (control 3.5, low 83.7 and high 404.0 mg l −1) at two velocities (low 0.19 m s −1 and high 0.37 m s −1), for 6 h in a recirculating flume. Tracheal gill surfaces were subsequently examined for evidence of physical damage using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) images. Physical damage predominantly consisted of fine sediment coverage of gill surfaces, appearing as a deposited layer of sediment obscuring and potentially clogging the gill. For E. venosus, suspended sediment concentration influenced gill cover, but velocity had no significant effect. Coverage of H. siltalai gill surfaces increased significantly between low and high sediment concentrations but only at the higher flow velocity. Gill coverage of E. danica did not differ across any sediment concentration. The results were consistent with reported species sensitivities to fine sediment, despite the use of cadavers. However, we found limited evidence of physical abrasion as a direct physical effect of fine sediment under the experimental conditions used.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)697-711
    Number of pages15
    Issue number3
    Early online date5 Dec 2019
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020

    Bibliographical note

    The final publication is available at Springer via http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10750-019-04131-x

    Copyright © and Moral Rights are retained by the author(s) and/ or other copyright owners. A copy can be downloaded for personal non-commercial research or study, without prior permission or charge. This item cannot be reproduced or quoted extensively from without first obtaining permission in writing from the copyright holder(s). The content must not be changed in any way or sold commercially in any format or medium without the formal permission of the copyright holders.


    This research was funded by a Postgraduate Research Fund from the British Society of Geomorphology, awarded to M. McKenzie (who is also the recipient of a Coventry University PhD studentship).


    • Aquatic insects
    • Benthic invertebrates
    • Scanning electron microscopy
    • Suspended sediment

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Aquatic Science


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