Outdoor education programs frequently offer stream classes that teach students how to assess water quality based on the composition of aquatic macroinvertebrate communities. Repeatedly using the same site for stream classes can cause disturbance that could negatively impact aquatic macroinvertebrates. However, the impact of outdoor education stream classes on short term temporal trends of aquatic macroinvertebrates has not been evaluated. Our objective was to quantify whether outdoor education stream classes caused localized and short-term impacts on the aquatic macroinvertebrate community. We sampled aquatic macroinvertebrates over a five day period in May 2014 from an impacted riffle subjected to repeated substrate disturbance by outdoor education stream classes and an unimpacted riffle that was not subjected to stream classes within an agricultural stream in central Ohio. We did not observe a difference in macroinvertebrate community response variables between different time periods or among days within the impacted riffle as part of our within riffle analysis. We documented that macroinvertebrate abundance and dorsoventrally flattened clinger abundance was greater within the unimpacted riffle than the impacted riffle. Macroinvertebrate evenness was greater in the impacted riffle than the unimpacted riffle. In the impacted riffle percent clingers was greater on Monday than on Friday. Conversely, in the unimpacted riffle percent clingers was greater on Friday than on Monday. Our results indicated that outdoor education stream classes did not alter short term temporal trends of macroinvertebrate community structure within an impacted riffle, but the stream classes resulted in differences in community structure between an impacted and unimpacted riffle. Our results suggest that outdoor education centers should avoid repeatedly using the same site for their stream classes to prevent negatively impacting aquatic macroinvertebrates.
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