, Volume 686, Issue 1, pp 73-89

Structure of rotifer assemblages in shallow waterbodies of semi-arid northwest Iran differing in salinity and vegetation cover

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Abstract

Rotifers are important components of freshwater ecosystems and sensitive indicators of environmental changes. This study was carried out to test the hypothesis that, among environmental variables, salinity and aquatic vegetation have significant effects on rotifer diversity and abundance. We analyzed rotifer assemblages in the littoral zone of 22 hydromorphologically different shallow waterbodies in West Azarbaijan, Iran. Rotifer diversity and abundance were not significantly associated with basin morphology, but were positively correlated with the percentage of vegetation cover. Salinity and electroconductivity positively influenced rotifer abundance, while they had significantly negative effects on rotifer diversity. Halobiont species from the genera Brachionus, Hexarthra, Synchaeta, and Notholca reached their highest abundances in the waterbodies with pronouncedly higher salinities. Our findings are in agreement with recent records showing that distinct rotifer assemblages occur in saline and non-saline waterbodies. The role of salinity and aquatic vegetation as the most important environmental drivers in shaping rotifer communities is confirmed. The results of this study suggested that environmental changes could be significant on the micro-biogeographical level, and that the interaction of salinity and observed human impact, i.e., trophic level, promote rotifer abundance as sensitive indicators of environmental changes.

Handling editor: Mariana Meerhoff