Aquatic Ecology

, Volume 45, Issue 2, pp 279–287 | Cite as

Macrophyte architecture affects the abundance and diversity of littoral microfauna

  • Paloma Lucena-Moya
  • Ian C. DugganEmail author


We tested the hypothesis that structural complexity is an important factor influencing the abundance and taxon richness of microfauna (e.g., rotifers, copepods, cladocerans) in littoral habitats. Research on littoral microfauna has to date focused mainly on field observations, which commonly show microfauna have preference for some macrophytes over others. However, while such studies commonly conclude that macrophyte architecture is a major determinant of these variations, independent factors may also be responsible (e.g., differences in macrophyte ages, differences in macrophyte bed densities and the depth of the respective macrophyte beds sampled). We used artificial macrophytes with three levels of complexity to keep the surface area and mass of the substrate sampled constant, and to control for confounding factors not related to the complexity of the plants. Our results support the hypothesis that structural complexity is an important factor influencing abundance and taxon richness, independent of other potential confounding factors. Microfaunal (mainly rotifer) abundance and richness were generally greater on more complex artificial macrophytes, likely a result of more complex substrates (1) providing a greater variety of habitat, (2) supporting a greater concentration or variety of food and/or (3) affording greater protection against predators. Less mobile surface-associated (i.e., benthic/periphytic) taxa were found to discriminate among substrates, whereas the abundance and richness of planktonic species were not affected by complexity level. Relatively low abundances and taxon richness of microfauna recorded in control samples, which did not contain artificial macrophytes, supports the contention that vegetated areas sustain a higher abundance and variety of species than non-vegetated areas.


Zooplankton Rotifers Artificial macrophytes Complexity levels Species richness Abundance New Zealand 



We thank members of CBER for discussion that improved our experimental design, and especially Dai Morgan for his ideas and for the use of his experimental platforms. P. Lucena-Moya was supported by a grant from the University of Vigo.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Animal Biology, Faculty of SciencesUniversity of VigoVigoSpain
  2. 2.Department of Biological Sciences, Centre for Biodiversity and Ecology ResearchThe University of WaikatoHamiltonNew Zealand

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