Team discovers that wind moves microinvertebrates across desert

phys.org | 3/13/2018 | Staff
Pumpkinajn (Posted by) Level 3
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The work of faculty and students from The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) has yielded the first evidence of how waterborne microinvertebrates move across vast expanses of arid desert.

An article published March 13, 2018 in Limnology and Oceanography Letters, a publication of the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, details for the first time how high desert winds disperse small invertebrates and how they colonize hydrologically disconnected basins throughout the region.

Findings - Implications - Freshwater - Systems - Elizabeth

"These novel findings might have large implications for freshwater systems," said Elizabeth J. Walsh, Ph.D., professor in UTEP's Department of Biological Sciences and director of the doctoral program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. "As climate changes and water patterns shift, our work might help others understand the intricacies of the wind-aided dispersal of freshwater organisms. It's important because these organisms are the base of the food web. How they move will affect the movement of the biological communities that are built up around them."

Walsh added that the impetus for the research grew out of a previous five-year study of Chihuahuan Desert aquatic environments funded by the National Science Foundation. Part of that project involved characterizing the biodiversity of microinvertebrates at 300 sites. Researchers wanted to better understand how organisms were colonizing these bodies of water that were separated by vast distances of desert and not tied together by hydrological links such as drainage routes.

Water - Animals - Thing - Wind - Walsh

"If they weren't being moved by water, and they weren't being moved by other animals, then the next thing we thought is, 'It has to be the wind,'" Walsh said.

Enter Thomas E. Gill, Ph.D., UTEP professor in the Department of Geological Sciences and Environmental Science and Engineering Program, who while conducting concurrent studies on Chihuahuan Desert wind storms, pondered, "What kinds of living things are being carried along with...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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