Effects of Contaminants on Linked Aquatic and Terrestrial Food Webs

Science Center Objects

Most aquatic insects live in fresh water as larvae and move to land as flying adults to complete their life cycle. Although often ignored, the emergence of adults can transfer the effects of contamination from aquatic to terrestrial ecosystems as the adults are eaten by predators such as spiders, birds, and bats.

Our scientists are investigating how contaminants move from streams, rivers, and lakes into riparian zones and how contamination alters the ecological linkages between these systems. We use large-scale field studies in various aquatic ecosystems, ranging from mountain headwater streams to the Great Lakes, and conduct complementary experiments at the new aquatic experimental laboratory at the Fort Collins Science Center. The mesocosm facility in our state-of-the-art laboratory is designed to replicate the coupled aquatic-riparian ecosystems. Results from these studies are helping managers to better evaluate water-quality criteria, to design and implement restoration plans for contaminated aquatic systems, and to assess the effectiveness of remedial actions.