So who lives in the neighborhood? Alan discovered that 92.5% of everyone in the local ditch community lives at the water-sediment interface, right on beachfront property. Is it water quality that determines who settles down in a ditch?Surprisingly, no. Alan found that these burrowing invertebrate inhabitants did not correlate with water quality but did correlate with the size of the ditch.
Using soluble reactive phosphate (SRP) as an indicator nutrient, he was able to observe how different techniques of sediment perturbation, sediment particle size, and changing water composition/quality would affect the release of SRP into the environment. He handcrafted miniature microcosms to simulate different perturbation types using three major invertebrate inhabitants: bio diffusors, large conveyors and gallery diffusors. SRP is the amount of phosphorus (P) available to be used for growth without any further required conversion. Although the results varied depending on factor combination used in these isolated microcosms, Alan expects an overall decrease of P release into the surface water due to the complexity of invertebrate burrower community within a realistic ditch ecosystem.
Feeling inquisitive after your journey through boundless rows of Eastern Shore cornfields on your way to the beach? To delve deeper into the drainage ditch depths, you can peruse Dr. Leslie’s most recent publication in Environmental Entomology.