The Russian River watershed provides food and shelter for many species of invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians, mammals and birds. Wildlife communities in the watershed are an important part of the ecosystem and its health. Presented below are some of the common, endangered, and unique animals living in our watershed.
Macroinvertebrates are defined as animals that do not have a backbone, and are big enough to see with the naked eye. They include insects, arachnids, crustaceans, annelids, and mollusks. These small animals are of extreme importance to the overall health of the Russian River watershed, for they are the link in the food web between the producers (algae and plants) and consumers (fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals). The presence of freshwater macroinvertebrates in the waters of the Russian River watershed is an important indicator of water quality. They are very sensitive to physical and chemical changes, providing advance warning of pollution problems. By consuming bacteria and decaying plants and animals, macroinvertebrates help maintain the health of the ecosystem. Many filter feeders such as freshwater mussels supply an extremely valuable natural filtering service. Threats to all of these creatures include pollution, sediment loading of the gravel river bottom, introduced species of fish, and other human impacts. For more information on these small creatures, take a look at a great resource from Stroud Water Research Center, for identifying different macroinvertebrates that you might see in the Russian River. For more information on the study of macroinvertebrates and their response to pollution in the river, click here.