Cattle grazing effects on aquatic macroinvertebrates were assessed in a 4-year experiment of a mountain stream in northeastern Oregon. From 1996 through 1999, 10 cow–calf pairs were introduced into 6 experimental units along the stream for 42 days between July and September, and effects on aquatic macroinvertebrates were compared with 3 units in which no grazing occurred. Streambank and geomorphological variables were also measured to provide context for interpretation of effects on aquatic macroinvertebrates. Macroinvertebrate response to grazing was subtle, indicated by significantly lower abundance in grazed units. We measured more profound effects on streambanks: grazing caused an average decrease of 18% in bank length of the highest stability/cover class and caused an average increase of 8% in the lowest condition class over the course of each summer. By June of each following year, banks had recovered to their previous June condition, but grazing each summer caused a progressively larger decline in bank condition by September. Streambank effects were accompanied by an increase in cobble embeddedness over time in grazed units and were correlated with grazing-associated stream widening. Treatment effects were overwhelmed, however, by a profound decline in the abundance of most macroinvertebrates over the study period, with a drop in September 1999 to 14% of the initial September abundance of 1997. While the drop was more precipitous in grazed units, declines were common to all study units, suggesting that something more widespread affected the system during this time. Logging on lands just upstream of the study area in 1998 and 1999, in which trucks drove through the study stream without the benefit of a culvert, sent sediment plumes into the study area each of those 2 years and could have caused the precipitous decline in aquatic macroinvertebrates.
Vol. 60 • No. 3