Date of Award

Spring 5-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Dr. Julia Earl


Ephemeral pools provide habitat to a wide diversity of aquatic insects which colonize pools to establish new populations in higher quality habitats. These pools rely on nutrient inputs from the surrounding terrestrial landscape, predominantly through leaf litter. Using mesocosms, we tested for the effect of leaf litter diversity (richness and functional diversity) on the colonization of aquatic insects. Leaf litter influences characteristics of a pool (tannins, water color, and nutrients) which may make them more or less desirable to potential colonizers. I added unique mixtures of leaf litter with different numbers of species (0, 3, 5, 7, and 9) and calculated functional diversity for each. I also examined which characteristics make different mesocosms more attractive to potential colonizers. Colonizers preferred mesocosms with leaves rather than ones without. Leaf litter functional diversity was a better predictor of colonizer abundance than leaf species richness. I found that colonizer communities were largely influenced by N:P ratios, conductivity, water color, and tannins. By understanding the relationship between leaf litter diversity and colonizing aquatic insects, we can understand the community dynamics of ephemeral pools.