European settlement and attendant forest clearance and agricultural activities in northeastern Iowa caused changes in the landscape, vegetation, insect fauna, and water quality unequalled in rate and magnitude since the melting of Wisconsinan glaciers. Historical documents show that the upper part of the Roberts Creek drainage basin was settled between AD 1840 and 1856, and the area was under intensive cultivation by 1880. Extensive soil erosion beginning at this time resulted in increased runoff and more frequent flooding; aggradation rates increased by one to two orders of magnitude over those in presettlement times, and the entire floodplain was covered with up to 1 m of sediment. Channel widening between about 1880 and 1930 allowed the stream to accommodate greater floods, overbank deposition decreased, and further deposits were restricted mostly to the channel belt.
The presettlment begetation was a stable mix of wet savanna on the valley walls and upland. Disturbance from soil erosion, floodplain erosion, and floodplain deposition almost completely replaced both lowland and upland communities with ruderal (distrubed ground) plants, many of them introduced weeds. Regional insect communities were simultaneously affected by changes in land use. The presettlement aquatic beetle fauna was dominated by species of dryopoid beetles that today inhabit only streams of high water quality. Terrestrial beetles taxa included species of undisturbed grasslands and riparian forest. The changes in the landscape resulted in a decrease in the diversity of terrestrial beetle taxa and caused the near total elimination of dryopoid beetles in stream waters. Dominating the historic assemblages are beetles associated with dung, polluted waters, and cultivated plants, including host-specific immigrant beetle species that are associated with immigrant plant species.
Baker, R.G., D.P. Schwert, E. A. Bettis III, and C.A. Chumbley (1993): Impact of Euro-American Settlement on a Riparian Landscape in Midwestern USA: An Integrated Approach Based on Historical Evidence, Floodplain Sediments, Fossil Pollen, Plant Macrofossils and Insects. The Holocene 3(4): 314-323.. DOI: 10.1177/095968369300300403