CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – The aquatic nymphs of stoneflies are indicators of water and habitat quality and quantity. Loss of this habitat is resulting in rapid decline of many species, which are at serious risk of disappearing from agricultural and urban areas of the Midwest, according to Ed DeWalt, aquatic entomologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey, Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois.
DeWalt and colleagues are interested in reconstructing the assemblage of stoneflies living in Ohio before they disappear. They recently discovered 102 stonefly species, the most of any state in the Midwest.
Six of the Ohio species were reported as extirpated from the state because of poor water quality, including untreated waste, coal mining, agricultural chemicals, and DDT (used in the 1950s). Another 35 species were exceedingly rare; however, two new species were added to the list of Ohio stoneflies as a result of the study. A previous study found one stonefly species new to science, which DeWalt and team are now describing.
Reconstructing a shrinking fauna is difficult. Many streams no longer hold natural populations of stoneflies, so the research team visited 20 research collections at universities and public and private museums to gather specimens, resulting in nearly 8,000 specimen records.
"The data set spans the years 1880 to 2016 and is the largest data set of its kind," DeWalt said.
Today, stonefly communities are most abundant and diverse in the lower Scioto River drainage of central and southern Ohio, especially in the Hocking Hills area. Populations of stoneflies once were much more widely distributed across the state.
A study of Illinois stoneflies found that 22 of 80 species had been extirpated from the state. Ohio's fauna is in much better shape.
“Often researchers study species in far-flung places,” DeWalt said. “Although it is important to describe new species from other countries, it is also important to protect the species in our own backyard before we lose them forever.”
The research data were reported in an open access article that was published in the November 16 issue of Biodiversity Data Journal and may be viewed and downloaded at the following URL: http://bdj.pensoft.net/articles.php?id=10723.
Funders of the research include the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, National Science Foundation, the Edge of Appalachia Preserve, and Crane Hollow Nature Preserve.
Media contact: Ed DeWalt, (217) 649-7414; firstname.lastname@example.org