Flow increases tolerance of heat and hypoxia of an aquatic insect

James I. Frakes, Jackson H. Birrell, Alisha A. Shah, H. Arthur Woods

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Recent experiments support the idea that upper thermal limits of aquatic insects arise, at least in part, from a lack of sufficient oxygen: rising temperatures typically stimulate metabolic demand for oxygen more than they increase rates of oxygen supply from the environment. Consequently, factors influencing oxygen supply, like water flow, should also affect thermal and hypoxia tolerance. We tested this hypothesis by measuring the effects of experimentally manipulated flows on the heat and hypoxia tolerance of aquatic nymphs of the giant salmonfly (Plecoptera: Pteronarcys californica), a common stonefly in western North America. As predicted, stoneflies in flowing water (10 cm s -1) tolerated water that was approximately 4°C warmer and that contained approximately 15% less oxygen than did those in standing water. Our results imply that the impacts of climate change on streamflow, such as changes in patterns of precipitation and decreased snowpack, will magnify the threats to aquatic insects from warmer water temperatures and lower oxygen levels.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20210004
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021


  • CT max
  • aquatic insect
  • boundary layer
  • hypoxia
  • oxygen
  • temperature


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