A comparative study of invertebrate food web structure in two adjacent tributaries of the Slave River with divergent chemistry

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University of New Brunswick


This study examines benthic invertebrate assemblages of two contrasting river systems: the Salt River and Dog River, adjacent tributaries of the Slave River, located near the town of Fort Smith, Northwest Territories. The study sites, located in different ecoregions, express contrasting geophysical and geochemical characteristics: the Salt River draining karst geology and the Dog River draining Canadian Shield geology. Prior to this study, these two rivers were relatively unstudied by scientists, despite their significance for water and cultural resources to indigenous people of the area. At the time of this study, interest in exploring the potential use of these sites as part of the CanadaAlberta Oil Sands Monitoring program was being explored. The purpose of this study was therefore to gain baseline knowledge about these systems for future biomonitoring purposes. The objectives of this thesis were to examine and compare community composition, taxon richness and prevalence, and trophic structure of the benthic invertebrate communities. Results showed significant differences in taxon richness, prevalence, and trophic structure of the benthic assemblages between the two rivers. The results suggests [sic] that the geophysical and geochemical differences between the two rivers led to differences between the benthic invertebrate communities.