Dispersal is an essential process in metapopulation and metacommunity dynamics. Most studies of aquatic invertebrate dispersal in streams have focused on in-stream drift of larvae. However, understanding aerial dispersal is important for predicting community assembly in isolated habitats after disturbance or stream restoration. We used artificial pools placed at 3 distances (5, 75, and 250 m) from 1 perennial and 1 ephemeral arid-land stream to examine aerial-dispersal dynamics of aquatic invertebrates over a 6-wk period in summer 2009. We also conducted a 2-wk experiment to examine the relationship between daily rainfall and disperser abundance at the perennial site. Sixty-six aquatic invertebrate taxa (including many Coleoptera and Diptera and fewer Hemiptera, Ephemeroptera, Trichoptera, and noninsect taxa) colonized the artificial pools. They represented ⅓ of taxa documented from neighboring perennial streams. Abundance and species richness declined with distance away from both streams. This result suggests that ephemeral stream channels may serve as important aerial dispersal corridors for aquatic invertebrates even when no surface water is present. Mean species richness tripled after 58 mm of rain during the 4th wk of the experiment. Data from the 2-wk experiment highlighted the role of rainfall as a dispersal cue in this system. Amount of daily rainfall explained 48 to 77% of the variation in disperser abundance at 5, 75, and 250 m from the perennial site. We used spatiotemporal dispersal patterns observed in our study to identify 5 modes of aerial dispersal among 56 taxa: 1) widespread common, 2) widespread haphazard, 3) range-restricted, 4) cue-limited, and 5) infrequent. Classification of specific aerial-dispersal modes provides a conceptual framework for modeling spatially explicit community responses to disturbance, stream restoration, and climate-change-induced habitat contraction or expansion.
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