Friday, January 15, 2010
So what exactly is a benthic macroinvertebrate?
By now you have probably read the Conservancy’s State of the Environment Report and learned about water, land, air, waste, and energy issues in Berks County. Hopefully you have taken the report’s advice to heart and looking at what changes you might make in your life to help make a difference. After reading that one lawn mower emits as much pollution per hour as 11 cars, I decided to look into getting an electric mower when we are in need for a new one. I have found that there are many options and their prices are quite reasonable.
Reading the report may also have left you with questions. After reading the report my wife asked me, “What exactly is a benthic macroinvertebrate?” Benthic macroinvertebrates were used to gauge Aquatic Life in Streams – Water Indicator Five from the report. In explaining what a benthic macroinvetebrate is, we should first breakdown the words:
Benthic = bottom
Macro = large
Invetebrate = animal without a backbone
So benthic macroinvertebrates are large animals without backbones that live in the bottoms of our waterways. Now, large may be misleading. A large invertebrate is still a very small animal. Benthic macroinvertebrates include crayfish, clams, snails, aqautic worms, and immature forms of insects such as stoneflies and mayflies. The animals live on rocks, logs, sediment, debris, and aquatic plants in our waterways. Many benthic macroinvertebrates are very dependent on clean water for survival; oxygen levels, the presence of toxic chemicals and nutrients, and overall habitat quality are all important factors. They are also an important component of the food chain. Benthic macroinvertebrates typically serve as “middlemen”, eating leaves and other organic matter, then serving as food to fish and other larger species.
Every one of us plays and important role in providing a healthy habitat for macroinvertebrates in Berks County. If you live along a stream, make sure you do not mow your lawn right to the streambank. This will protect the streambank from erosion and leave a buffer strip to filter pollutants before they reach the stream. Also, if you have various toxic substances around your house (cleaning agents, motor oil, antifreeze) make sure you store them properly to prevent spills and never pour them down storm drains that lead directly to our local waterways.
Spotts, Stevens, and McCoy