, Volume 166, Issue 2, pp 469-483
Date: 01 Dec 2010

Spatio-temporal nested patterns in macroinvertebrate assemblages across a pond network with a wide hydroperiod range

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Nestedness has been widely used to measure the structure of biological communities and occurs when species-poor sites contain subsets of species-rich ones. Here, we examine nested patterns across the macroinvertebrate assemblages of 91 ponds in Doñana National Park, Spain, and explore temporal variation of nestedness and species richness in 19 temporary ponds over 2 years with differing rainfall. Macroinvertebrate assemblages were significantly nested; both pond spatial arrangement and environmental variation being important in driving nested patterns. Despite the nested structure observed, a number of taxa and ponds deviate from this pattern (termed idiosyncratic), by occurring more frequently than expected in species-poor sites, or having assemblages dominated by species largely absent from species-rich sites. Aquatic adults of winged insects, capable of dispersal, were more highly nested than non-dispersing taxa and life-history stages. Idiosyncratic taxa were found in ponds spanning a wide range of hydroperiods, although nestedness was higher in more permanent waterbodies. Monthly sampling demonstrated a gradual increase of species richness and nestedness from pond filling to April–May, when the most temporary ponds started to dry. Although the degree of nestedness of individual pond assemblages varied from month to month, the overall degree of nestedness in the two study years was practically identical despite marked differences in hydroperiod. Our results suggest that differential colonization and environmental variation are key processes driving the nested structure of Doñana ponds, that macroinvertebrate assemblages change in a predictable manner each year in response to cycles of pond wetting and drying, and that connectivity and environmental variability maintain biodiversity in pond networks.

Communicated by Jonathan Shurin.