Microhabitat–zooplankton relationship in extensive macrophyte vegetations of eutrophic clear-water ponds
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- Van Onsem, S., De Backer, S. & Triest, L. Hydrobiologia (2010) 656: 67. doi:10.1007/s10750-010-0442-1
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The influence of different macrophyte taxa or growth forms on biological and environmental variables is often analysed in one-lake studies. However, the unique combination of non-vegetational characteristics of a waterbody, i.e. its site identity, can be an influential factor in itself, shaping the measured parameters irrespective of the presence or absence of certain macrophyte species. In this situation, the relative strengths of all factors can be determined best in a study that explicitly accounts for differences in the identity of the waterbodies. Several functional macrophyte groups are known to provide a potent microinvertebrate refuge or permanent habitat. The objective of this study was to detect patterns in the zooplankton assemblages associated with different extensive habitats of macrophyte species and to relate these patterns to three major factors: the microhabitat, the pond identity and the seasonality in the warmer months of the year. Five ponds located in the Woluwe catchment of the Brussels-Capital Region (Belgium) were studied monthly for macrophyte and zooplankton characteristics from July until October 2005. The vegetation in the clear ponds was characterized by extensive monospecific stands (Ceratophyllum, Chara, Nitella, Potamogeton, Nuphar and filamentous algae). Zooplankton could be analysed in seven different vegetation types and in the open water zones and contained a total of 17 cladoceran and 27 rotifer genera. Principal components analysis (PCA) ordination of zooplankton communities showed a seasonal gradient and a tendency to group within-pond habitats, although they differed in macrophyte species and habitat structure. Despite the absence of clustering of similar microhabitats across ponds, percent volume infested (PVI), vegetation biomass density and Daphnia length (used as a proxy for fish predation pressure) contributed significantly positive to the Shannon zooplankton biodiversity indices. Moreover, densities of most zooplankton subgroups and of total zooplankton were significantly and positively related to PVI. It is assumed that in eutrophic ponds, extensive, often monospecific macrophyte vegetations provide an ecological environment suitable for both macrophyte-associated species and migrating pelagic zooplankton, thereby maintaining a high microinvertebrate biodiversity.