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Furthermore, this type of exercise helps to improve the cardiovascular system by increasing the heart rate, which enhances fitness while improving muscle strength and balance as the body stays in an upright position in a changing environment. Balance — As a person gets older, his or her balance may begin to decline, which increases the risk of falling.

Aquatic exercises help in improving that balance. If the water is at least waist high, your loved one can build strength by working against unsettled water. Endurance — This is where cardiovascular training comes into play. Exercises such as walking, kicking, lifting knees, dancing, hopping and jogging are all examples of endurance training. All of these activities done at a brisk pace will help to elevate breathing and heart rates.

But performing them in the water significantly reduces the stress placed on the body. Strength — After endurance training, strength training should follow. This type of workout should involve resistance exercises that can improve muscle tone. For instance, many pools have water dumbbells that are perfect for front and side arm curls and arm raises, which will help strengthen and tone the arm muscles and core. All in all, aquatic exercise is a great option if your aging loved one cannot partake in other forms of exercise. Not only can this activity help to improve overall well-being, it also offers relief from symptoms of joint disease, circulatory problems and arthritis.

The St. Barnabas Resource Center is your online source for health news, advice, and insights into elder care, retirement living, dementia care, rehabilitation, and more. The extremes of adult life span range from a few minutes some mayflies to two or three years some water beetles. One of the most amazing things about aquatic insects is the diversity of habitats where they live. There is no body of water that is too small, too large, too cold, too hot, too muddy, with oxygen too low, with currents too fast, or even with too much pollution for some kind of aquatic insect to live there.

About the only restriction to where they live is that they do not usually inhabit the salty water of marine environments, such as oceans and bays. However, there are even a couple of unusual aquatic insects that live on coral reefs and in tide pools of marine environments. Estuaries, where the fresh water of rivers mixes with the salt water of oceans, are home to quite a few kinds of aquatic insects. Anyone who has been to the beach knows about the kinds of mosquitoes that breed in the salt marshes near the beach.

Not all kinds of aquatic insects live in all types of freshwater habitats.

The most favorable habitats, and the ones where you can collect the most kinds of aquatic insects, are the edges of ponds and lakes and the sections of streams and rivers where the water is flowing fast enough to splash riffles. In both standing and flowing freshwater habitats, the most different kinds of aquatic insects will be found in water that is less than three feet deep and can be easily waded.

Aquatic insects have a variety of special adaptations for moving around or staying in one place within their habitat. Some are agile swimmers by means of streamlined bodies with long legs or tails, while others climb around on aquatic plants by means of long thin bodies. Some sprawl on top of soft mucky bottom without sinking in because their bodies are flat and their legs extend out from the sides. Others are able to burrow down into soft mucky bottom because they have special structures on their bodies, such as legs that look like shovels or points projecting in front of their heads.

Still others can cling to rocks and logs in very swift current because their bodies are very flat and the current just passes over them without knocking them off. Other clingers stay put by using special suckers or by gluing themselves down with sticky silk that they produce.

Lastly, many aquatic insects like to crawl around in the tiny spaces among rocks, sticks, and dead leaves. Because aquatic insects are small and highly specialized, different kinds are often found in small areas with similar features, which are called microhabitats. Examples of microhabitats where you will probably find different aquatic insects are: cobble rocks about the size of your fist or head , gravel, sand, muck, accumulations of dead leaves and twigs, live plants, and grasses and tree roots that extend into the water from land.

Different microhabitats, with different aquatic insects living in them, occur very close together, perhaps within one step of each other. Aquatic insects even live in temporary habitats, such as small streams or ponds that dry up in the summer. If they are adults, they can simply fly to another place with water. Some immature aquatic insects that cannot yet fly will burrow down into the bottom where it is damp and go into an inactive state, something like animals hibernating over winter. However, most aquatic insects that live in temporary habitats are "programmed" to stay in their eggs, where they are protected, until the time of year when water is present.

Aquatic insects are always easy to collect because they are so numerous and they live in so many different places. The simplest way is just to pick up objects in the water, such as rocks, plants, sticks, or leaves, and examine the material. Sometimes it works best to place the object in a shallow pan with clean water. You can see aquatic insects with your naked eye, but a magnifying glass might help to find some of the smaller ones. You will probably collect more organisms by using a net with fairly fine mesh.

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These are available in stores or you can build your own from materials around the house. If there is current, hold the net in the water and move the habitat where you think aquatic insects might live upstream from the net. It works best if you move the habitat with your hands, but it will also work to kick with your feet it just damages more of the organisms.

Either way, aquatic insects and some of the material where they were living will wash right into your net. If you are in standing water, you will need to move the net in the places where the aquatic insects live. Usually short pokes with the net work best. After collecting material in the net, empty the contents into a shallow pan with clean water to find the aquatic insects. There is no reason to kill aquatic insects unnecessarily, so it is always best to release them back into the water alive after studying them for a while.

However, since most aquatic insects are very abundant, it is acceptable to make a preserved collection of common ones for educational purposes. The best way to preserve aquatic insects is to place them in alcohol in a small clear container with a tight fitting lid. Rubbing alcohol isopropanol works fine. You should put a paper label in the container stating what kind of aquatic insect it is, as well as where and when you collected the organism. The labels should be written in pencil or indelible ink.

Aquatic insects are probably best known for their ability to tell us about the water quality in a particular environment. Some of them are very sensitive to pollution, while others are tolerant. If you take a sample of the aquatic insects in a particular place, and analyze the sample in terms of the sensitive kinds versus tolerant kinds, you can get a good measure of the environmental health. Healthy aquatic environments have a lot of different sensitive kinds, while polluted environments have only a few kinds of tolerant aquatic insects. This process is called biological monitoring or biomonitoring and is commonly done by government agencies as well as citizen volunteer organizations.

However, the use of aquatic insects for biomonitoring is not the main reason that they are important. Because there are so many different kinds of aquatic insects and their activities are so diverse, they perform essential roles that keep freshwater ecosystems functioning properly. A good analogy would be the various jobs of factory workers on an assembly line that are necessary to make sure that a manufacturing plant turns out plenty of good products.

Some of the aquatic insects are responsible for breaking down the dead leaves and other plant parts that fall into bodies of water from land. This material provides the base of the food chain in some aquatic environments, especially small streams in forests. Some scrape the algae that grow on all firm surfaces in water, such as rocks, logs, and the leaves and stems of live rooted plants.

This layer of algae, which produces much oxygen and food for other organisms, is more productive if it is kept thin by the grazing of aquatic insects and other invertebrates. Other kinds of aquatic insects are specialized for filtering fine particles that are suspended in the water. This is useful because it helps to keep the water clear enough for light to penetrate where algae and other plants are growing on the bottom.

Other kinds mix the soft bottom sediments as they burrow in search of food. This makes the bottom healthier for organisms because it puts oxygen from the water into the bottom. Lastly, the aquatic insects that are predators reduce the numbers of other invertebrates and help keep a balance among the different kinds of organisms and the food that is available.

Even if aquatic insects did not perform these important jobs in aquatic ecosystems, they would still be useful just because collecting and observing them is so easy and so much fun. Aquatic insects are an excellent way to get people of all ages interested in nature and conservation of natural resources. Hardly any species of aquatic insects have been listed as endangered or threatened. However, the reason for this is that studying the distribution and population numbers of such a diverse group of organisms is an overwhelming task.

Also, most people do not understand and appreciate the importance of these small creatures in freshwater ecosystems. It is certain that many species of aquatic insects are threatened and perhaps on the verge of extinction. These are most likely to be species that have narrow ecological requirements, and, thus, live in unique habitats that have not been disturbed by human activities. In the past, aquatic insects were severely reduced in many bodies of water by discharges of toxic substances, such as those from manufacturing plants and mines. Also, overloaded sewage treatment plants discharged human waste, which used up all of the dissolved oxygen when it decayed.


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Today in the United States, most of those point source discharges have been greatly reduced by strict enforcement of anti-pollution laws. However, aquatic insects still face a great threat from nonpoint source pollution. This widespread problem comes mainly from excessive amounts of nutrients and sediment that get into streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes from so many different sources that it is hard to track them all down.

The human activities that are responsible for most of the nonpoint source pollution are agriculture, forestry, and urban development. Many kinds of aquatic insects are eliminated because the excess nutrients and sediment cover the surfaces where aquatic insects need to hold on or clog the small spaces where they need to hide. In addition, these pollutants cause the water to have less dissolved oxygen.

Other current nonpoint source problems for aquatic insects include warm water temperature caused by removing the trees that grow along streams and the introduction of toxic substances that wash off of city streets and people's lawns. There are so many different kinds of aquatic insects, it is difficult to appreciate their biological diversity without considering some of the individual kinds. The following section provides a brief summary of the eight major groups. Mayflies Ephemeroptera Larvae of mayflies live in a wide variety of flowing and standing waters. Most of them eat plant material, either by scraping algae or collecting small pieces of detritus from the bottom.

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Larvae breathe dissolved oxygen by means of gills on the abdomen. They have incomplete metamorphosis. Most mayflies are sensitive to pollution, although there are a couple of exceptions. The most unusual feature of mayflies is that the adults only live a few hours and never eat. Dragonflies and Damselflies Odonata Larvae of dragonflies and damselflies are most common in standing or slow-moving waters.

All of them are predators. Larvae breathe dissolved oxygen with gills, which are located either inside the rear portion of the abdomen dragonflies or on the end of the abdomen damselflies. Many kinds are fairly tolerant of pollution, but some kinds only live in unique habitats, such as bogs high in the mountains.

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The most unusual feature of this group is the way the larvae catch their food with an elbowed lower lip, which they can shoot out in front of the head. Stoneflies Plecoptera Larvae of stoneflies live only in flowing waters, often cool, swift streams with high dissolved oxygen. Some feed on plant material, either by shredding dead leaves and other large pieces of detritus, while others are predators.

Larvae breathe dissolved oxygen. Some have gills on their thorax, but others just obtain dissolved oxygen all over their body. Almost all of the stoneflies are sensitive to pollution. The most unusual feature of this group is that some kinds are programmed to emerge only during the coldest months; hence, they are called the winter stoneflies.

True Bugs Hemiptera Most of the true bugs live on land, but the aquatic kinds are most common in the shallow areas around the edge of standing waters. Both the adults and the larvae of the aquatic kinds live in the water. Both stages are usually found on submerged aquatic plants. Almost all of them are predators.

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They breathe oxygen from the air, either by taking a bubble underwater or by sticking a breathing tube up into the air. Most kinds are tolerant of pollution. The most unusual feature of this group is the way they kill and eat their prey. True bugs have a sharp beak that they stick into the body of their prey, and then they pump in poison to kill their prey, after which they suck out the body fluids.

Some of the larger kinds feed on small fish and tadpoles. Dobsonflies and Alderflies Megaloptera Larvae of different kinds live in flowing or standing waters. They are all predators. They breathe dissolved oxygen by means of gills and their overall body surface. They have complete metamorphosis. Mature larvae leave the water and dig out a protected space under a rock or log for the pupa stage.

Different kinds are either sensitive or tolerant to pollution. Larvae of some of the larger kinds are called hellgrammites, which are popular as live bait for smallmouth bass and other warm-water fish species. Water Beetles Coleoptera There are more species of beetles than any other insects, but most of them live on land. Most of the water beetles are more common in standing or slow-moving waters, but a few kinds are only found in swiftly flowing waters.

Water beetles feed in different ways, primarily by preying on other animals, scraping algae, or collecting small particles of detritus from the bottom. All of the adults breathe air by taking a bubble underwater, while most of the larvae breathe dissolved oxygen by a combination of gills and their overall body surface. They have complete metamorphosis and leave the water for the pupa stage. Water beetles range from sensitive to somewhat tolerant of pollution. The most unusual feature of water beetles is that some of the adults live for several years.

Caddisflies Trichoptera Larvae of different caddisflies live in a wide variety of flowing and standing waters. They also have a wide range of feeding habits, including scraping algae, collecting fine particles of detritus from the bottom or from the water, shredding dead leaves, and preying on other invertebrates.

Caddisflies have complete metamorphosis and remain in the water for the pupa stage. Most kinds are sensitive to pollution, but a few kinds are somewhat tolerant of moderate levels of pollution. The most distinctive feature of caddisflies is their ability to spin silk out of their lower lip.


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They use this material to glue together stones or pieces of vegetation into a small house for their protection during the larva and pupa stages. Some also use strands of silk to make a net for filtering particles of food from the water. True Flies Diptera This group has more kinds on land, but there are also many aquatic kinds.

They have a wide range of feeding habits, including scraping algae, collecting fine particles of detritus from the bottom or from the water, shredding dead leaves, and preying on other invertebrates. True flies have complete metamorphosis and remain in the water for the pupa stage.

The most distinctive feature of this group is their ecological diversity. Some kinds live in the cleanest habitats e. They have equally diverse responses to pollution, with some kinds being exceptionally sensitive, while other kinds endure the worst imaginable water quality e. Aquatic insects are widely studied at all levels by educational institutions, government agencies, and citizen volunteers who monitor water quality.

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Using terms such as aquatic insects, freshwater invertebrates, or benthic macroinvertebrates with your favorite web search engine will locate many informative sites. Here are just a few examples. Fish and Wildlife Service. Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.