Date of Award

January 2021

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Amy Braccia

Department Affiliation

Biological Sciences

Second Advisor

Stephen C. Richter

Department Affiliation

Biological Sciences

Third Advisor

Sherry L. Harrel

Department Affiliation

Biological Sciences


The breakdown of coarse forms of detritus into finer forms is an ecosystem function of forested headwater streams. Many factors influence the rate of litter decay, but there is a lack of research on how stream restorations, that aim to restore hydrologic functions, influence litter breakdown. This study compared litter processing rates and macroinvertebrate detritivore assemblages between a hydrologically restored stream (Slabcamp Creek) and an un-restored control stream (White Pine Branch) in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Rowan Co., KY. Red maple (Acer rubrum) leaves were placed in mesh bags and deployed in riffles and pools at the restored and control sites on December 15, 2017. Four litter bags were retrieved from each habitat in streams on five separate occasions. The last set of bags was retrieved on April 7, 2018 after 113 days in the streams. The rate of breakdown from pools of the restored stream was faster (k = 0.0284 d-1) than the rate from the un-restored stream (k = 0.0130 d-1), and analysis indicated a significant difference in rates from pools between streams (p = 0.0021). High variation in restored site physical habitat may have affected litter breakdown. Further, most macroinvertebrate group metrics did not show significant differences between sites in abundance or biomass likely due to large variation from the restored site. However, shredder biomass was greater in restored pools due to a few large Pycnopsyche individuals, and collector-filterers had significantly greater abundance in the restored stream. Findings from this study provide baseline decomposition rates from a hydrologically restored stream and enhance our understanding of ecosystem functions from restored ecosystems.