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Can You Tell How Healthy A Stream is? Matthew Can!

Stonefly
Post submitted by our friend Matthew Thatcher

We all know streams and rivers are important (duh waterfalls). Rivers, streams, creeks, brooks, wetlands and the like are not only peaceful areas to hike through, but they are the literal life blood of the landscape. They provide the necessary water to sustain life; life for the forests, then the animals and ultimately us.

What is not so well known, is that within the waters themselves are entire ecosystems. The story of life takes place within those various waters and through its exploration you encounter an unknown hidden world.

Moving water systems (for us geniuses, we call them lotic water systems) are very complex, nearly as complex as any man made machines (like those darn iPhones you young whipper snappers have now a days *said while I shake my cane in the air). The geology shapes the water system and in return the water shapes the geology, influencing the behavior of the system.

With that said you can’t have the biology (aka the more fun stuff) without the geology. Now that I’ve bored you with the basics, lets discuss the fun stuff: our insect friends that live in the water (aka freshwater aquatic macro-invertebrates for you geniuses who can keep up).

As a general rule of thumb, the presence of insects in the water can be used to identify water quality (because, science). There’s a term in biology called a niche’ (also said a lot when one is looking for jobs too), this basically refers to an organisms “role” in the environment. Organisms are adapted for certain environments and are adapted to eating certain things. Once you can figure out an organism’s niche’ (the habitat it adapts to) you can start to get a general sense of the environment or you can figure out if there are any changes to environment.

This can get very technical very fast and there can be a lot of fancy sciencey terms being thrown around, but I won’t bore you with such details. However what I can show you  is that as a general rule of thumb the more diverse (more of our buggy friends saying hi to us), the healthier the ecosystem is (we call this biodiversity and is a good general rule of any kind of habitat).

So after this spiel, and hopefully I didn’t put you to sleep yet (wake up darn it *smacking you to the back of the head), I can now introduce you to some of our buggy friends. There are three groups of insects that, if any presence of the 3 can be found in the same water system, is usually a sign of good water quality. They are your Mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies (I will have their mug shots below).

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