Hydrologic variability & river ecology

Low flow at Sycamore Creek (Courtesy of Stuart Fisher and Nancy Grimm)

Flow variation is paramount in structuring river communities and has a profound effect on ecosystem processes.  One of the central research goals of the lab is to quantify and measure teh impact of floods and droughts on river food web structure and biodiversity.  Some of this work is done in the context of natural variability, while on other fronts we address the effects of climate change and human modifications to the hydrologic cycle (i.e., dams and water withdrawals). 

In collaboration with colleagues we have developed new tools for quantifying hydrologic variability using spectral methods (Sabo & Post 2008).  These tools provide meaningful measures of variation in flow regimes and allow us to quantify changes in flow regimes due to dams, withdrawals and climate change.

High flow at Sycamore Creek (courtesy of Stuart Fisher and Nancy Grimm)

Using these spectral methods we are quantifying the effect of flow variation on the stability of native fish and invertebrate faunas (2010GrossmanSabo (proof); Sponseller et al.2010) and on food chain length (Sabo et al. 2010) and  other aspects of food webs structure.  Our future work will attempt to link aspects of flow regimes directly to community stability in the context of climate change.