The worldwide study of stream ecosystems remains a topic of great interest, impacting methods and concepts critical to the preservation and management of global freshwater resources. Stream macroinvertebrates, especially aquatic insects, have served as one of the main pillars of inquiry into the structure and function of running water ecosystems. Stream macroinvertebrates have been used so extensively for over 100 years because they are universally present and abundant, can be readily observed with the unaided eye, (unlike algae and microbes) and are much less mobile than fish which can easily move to totally new locations. Although taxonomic identification has been the basis of analysis of stream macroinvertebrates, functional analysis now offers an additional tool that allows much more rapid analysis that can be accomplished in the field using simpler methodology.
Part of the book: Limnology
For over a century, there has been strong interest in freshwater streams and rivers. Since the inception of studies on running waters, invertebrates have been a central theme. Early descriptive work in Scandinavia and New Zealand was followed by work in Europe, England, and then North America and Australia. Presently, there is a very significant interest worldwide including Asia, Central and South America, and Africa in freshwater invertebrates. Throughout, insects have dominated the focus on invertebrates. Although the major marine invertebrate groups are present in freshwaters, there are essentially no marine insects. A clear picture of the habitat and food requirements of running water invertebrates shows that they serve as important indicators of water quality and fisheries. Major paradigms, such as the River Continuum and functional feeding groups, have provided frameworks for studies of running water (lotic) invertebrates. Once stream and river research achieved an international status by separation from lake domination of the limnology discipline, there has been an avalanche of running water invertebrate research.
Part of the book: Invertebrate Zoology