The relationship between sediment mobilisation and the entry of Baetis mayflies into the water column in a laboratory flume

C N Gibbins, E Scott, C Soulsby, I McEwan

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29 Citations (Scopus)


Mass bedload movement is thought to play a key role in initiating stream invertebrate drift during extreme flood events. However, little is known of the importance of the shear of invertebrates from stone surfaces relative to their entrainment along with bed material at different discharges. In particular, it is unclear whether so-called 'catastrophic drift' only occurs once mass bedload movement, and hence entrainment of invertebrates, occurs. We investigated the relationship between the mobilisation and transport of bed sediments and the entry of Baetis mayflies into the water column in a laboratory flume. Experiments quantified the percentage of Baetis drifting at a range of discharges that mobilised between 0 and 95% of the flume-bed sediments. Control experiments quantified drift losses from sediment fixed to the bed of the flume, such that sediments were immobile even at the highest discharges. Drift losses increased with increasing discharge and velocity in the flume. Sediment mobility contributed significantly to drift (ANCOVA, p < 0.001), with consistently greater drift losses in mobile sediment experiments than in those with fixed sediment. The discharge which resulted in a loss of 100% of Baetis from the mobile sediment bed (discharge 30 1 s(-1)) resulted in a loss of approximately 50% of individuals from the fixed bed. Results indicate that once bed sediments are mobilised, entry of Baetis into the drift is greater than expected from the shear of animals from stone surfaces alone. Thus, entrainment of animals along with sediment contributes significantly to drift at high flows. This implies that differences in bed stability between sites or streams. or temporal changes in sediment characteristics within a site, could influence patterns of drift.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-122
Number of pages8
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2005


  • Baetis
  • drift entry
  • sediment mobilisation
  • discharge
  • Benthic invertebrate communities
  • stream insects
  • Lake District
  • drift
  • density
  • flow
  • macroinvertebrates
  • ephemeroptera
  • dispersal
  • velocity

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