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Abstract: Numerous free-flying adult aquatic insect species use polarized light signatures to locate waterbodies on which they reproduce and where larval stages live for the majority of their lives. Manmade objects and structures are capable of mimicking these polarized light signatures and in many cases create signatures which are more attractive to aquatic insects than water itself. This effect causes severe ecological traps which threaten aquatic insects with population declines or extinctions. Previous studies have shown that the attraction of highly polarizing synthetic sources can be mitigated by strategic grids of non-polarizing lines. This represents an appealing mechanistic conservation work around. This paper, through multiple choice preference experiments, measured the effect that line thickness had on the deterring quality of a grid scheme. Our results showed that across non-biting midges (Chironomidae), black flies (Simulliidea), caddisflies (Trichoptera), and mayflies (Ephemeroptera) thickness of the non-polarizing line was an essential factor in the deterring effect. Our thinnest lined trap scheme (lines~1mm) captured equivalent numbers of insects to that of our highly polarizing control. My results also show novel interactions of different taxa and body size with the polarizing signatures of our experimental traps. My research has novel implications for both academic understanding of aquatic insect habitat selection and applied conservation strategies.
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Black, Theodore Vincent, "Disguising Ecological Traps: Exploring the Mechanisms of Aquatic Insect Habitat Choice for Application in Freshwater Conservation" (2016). Senior Projects Spring 2016. 46.
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