, Volume 95, Issue 10, pp 917-926
Date: 10 Jun 2008

Nested patterns in hyporheic meta-communities: the role of body morphology and penetrability of sediment

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Nestedness has been regarded as a common pattern of species distribution especially in terrestrial systems and vertebrate faunas. However, a significantly lower degree of nestedness has been reported for aquatic invertebrates. We analyzed the vertical distribution patterns of taxa in the upper 70 cm of the hyporheic zone. This biotope is abundantly inhabited by epigean fauna, which is morphologically pre-adapted to life within the limited space of sediment interstices. We tested the hypotheses that in the vertical profile of the hyporheic zone sediment acts as a physical barrier (filter), allowing only the morphologically pre-adapted and adapted (i.e., smaller, narrower, more flexible) taxa to penetrate to deeper layers. We demonstrated that this mechanism can promote a strongly nested and colonization-driven pattern at higher taxa levels. The sediment filter (1) constricted the body width: 0.50 mm appeared to be the upper limit for successful sediment colonization at the study site, and (2) favored elongated taxa against small sized taxa. We tested also the assumption that distribution of fine sediment affects the accessibility of hyporheic zone for fauna (“filter density”) and thereby influences nestedness. However, we found that nestedness could be sufficiently explained by the depth itself. Our study offers a possible explanation of depth patterns in hyporeic meta-communities as a result of morphological characteristics promoting nestedness at higher taxa level.