Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Watershed Sciences

Committee Chair(s)

Todd A. Crowl


Todd A. Crowl


Alan P. Covich


Phaedra Budy


Chris Luecke


Mark Brunson


Streams have been impacted by human activities in a variety of ways. Over time, these ecosystems become dominated by the most resilient species, with significant losses in the natural components that provide valuable ecosystem services to people. In impacted streams, the loss of ecosystem services often is not recognized until the stream has already been dramatically altered. In this study, I provide data on the natural distribution of freshwater decapods and the status of decapod communities in streams with different land use histories.

I reviewed the decapod distribution for the Caribbean to provide an update of the species that inhabit the freshwater systems. I determined the presence of 18 species of decapods in Puerto Rico and concluded that these decapods follow the island-species relationship in the Caribbean. Also, I present data associated with decapod community dynamics in watersheds with different urban development. As, expected the highly urban watershed had lower diversity and density of decapods than the medium and low urban watersheds. The variations in decapod communities among watersheds correlated with the degradation of the physical-chemical environments and clearing of the riparian zones. I compare the food webs among streams with different human impacts. Specific influences of point/nonpoint sources of N could be distinguished in food web components. This shows to an effect of human activities on the stream and watershed. In addition, I determined the effect of abiotic and biotic factors on the growth of A.lanipes (0.27 mm) and X.elongata (0.1 mm) over the 10-year period of study. The results showed that these species transform a wide range of organic materials into their biomass. Finally, I developed a series of education projects which promote the understanding and knowledge of freshwater ecosystems; interactions and the organisms that inhabit these systems. The results showed an increasing interest about freshwater fauna and ecosystems.

I concluded that: a) the distribution of freshwater decapods in the Caribbean islands follows the area-species relationship; b) urbanization represents one of the many distinct land uses that affect habitat structure, energy sources and biotic interactions; and c) it’s necessary to present the results of our research to the general public in ways that are easily understood.