, Volume 317, Issue 2, pp 97-107

The effect of habitat stability on benthic invertebrate communities: the utility of species abundance distributions

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Abstract

Spatial and temporal patterns in the species abundance distribution of benthic invertebrate communities of 11 freshwater habitats (10 streams and a wind-swept lake shore) were examined with respect to habitat stability. Abundance patterns varied markedly between seasons at most sites. However, mean abundance distributions at 4 of the 5 unstable sites and the 2 most stable sites were dominated by one or two taxa with a large number of rare species, whereas sites of intermediate stability had more equitable distributions. Both the log series and log normal distributions were statistically indistinguishable, at the 5% level, from all the observed mean abundance patterns. In contrast, graphical comparisons of the observed and fitted distributions suggested the log series may be the better fit at most of the unstable sites and the two most stable sites, whereas the more equitable distribution at sites of intermediate stability suggested the log normal distribution was the better fit. If conditions at a site favoured one or two species, either through severe physical conditions, or through competitive superiority in the absence of disturbance then the log series distribution may result. However, if no species in the community was strongly advantaged over others, a log normal distribution should result. Given the discriminating power of the appropriate statistical test it may not, however, be possible to pick up these differences without graphical comparisons as well.