Date of Thesis



Metacommunity ecology focuses on the interaction between local communities and is inherently linked to dispersal as a result. Within this framework, communities are structured by a combination of in-site responses to the immediate environment (species sorting), stochasticity (patch dynamics), and connections to other communities via distance between communities and dispersal (neutrality), and source-sink dynamics (mass effects; see Chapter 1 for a detailed description of metacommunity theory, the study site, and macroinvertebrate communities found). In Chapter 2 I describe spatial scale of study and dispersal ability as both have the ability to influence the degree to which communities interact. However, little is known about how these factors influence the importance of all metacommunity dynamics. I compared dispersal mode of immature aquatic insects and dispersal ability of winged adults across multiple spatial scales in a large river. The strongest drivers of river communities were patch dynamics, followed by species sorting, then neutrality. Active dispersers during aquatic lifestages on average exhibited lower patch dynamics, higher species sorting, and significant mass effects compared to passive dispersers. Active and strong dispersers also had a scale-independent influence of neutrality, while neutrality was stronger at broader spatial scale for passive and weak dispersers. These results indicate as dispersal ability increases patch dynamics decreases, species sorting increases, and neutrality should decrease. The perceived influence of neutrality may also be dependent on spatial scale and dispersal ability. In Chapter 3 I describe how river benthic macroinvertebrate communities may influence tributary invertebrate communities via adult flight and tributaries may influence mainstem communities via immature drift. This relationship may also depend on relative mainstem and tributary size, as well as abiotic tributary influence on mainstem habitat. To investigate the interaction between a larger river and tributary I sampled mainstem benthic invertebrate communities and quantified habitat of a 7th order river (West Branch Susquehanna River) above and below a 5th order tributary confluence, as well as 0.95-3.2 km upstream in the tributary. Non-metric multidimensional scaling showed similar patterns of clustering between sampling locations for both habitat characteristics and invertebrate communities. In addition, mainstem river communities and habitat directly downstream of the tributary confluence cluster tightly together, intermediate between tributary and mid-channel river samples. In Bray-Curtis dissimilarity comparisons between tributary and mainstem river communities the furthest upstream tributary communities were least similar to river communities. Middle tributary samples were also closest by Euclidean distance to the upstream mainstem riffle and exhibited higher similarity to mid-channel samples than the furthest downstream tributary communities. My results indicate river and tributary benthic invertebrate communities may interact and likely result in direct and indirect mass effects of a tributary on the downstream mainstem community by invertebrate drift and habitat restructuring via material delivery from the tributary. I also showed likely direct effects of adult dispersal from the river and oviposition in proximal tributary locations where Euclidian, rather than river, distance may be more important in determining river-tributary interactions.


Metacommunity, community ecology, large river, benthic macroinvertebrates, patch dynamics, mass effects, species sorting, neutral theory

Access Type

Masters Thesis (Bucknell Access Only)

Degree Type

Master of Science



First Advisor

Matthew McTammany