Landscape Ecology

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 375–390 | Cite as

Effects of macro and micro-environmental factors on the species richness of terrestrial tardigrade assemblages in an Iberian mountain environment

  • Noemí GuilEmail author
  • Joaquín Hortal
  • Sara Sánchez-Moreno
  • Annie Machordom
Research Article


Tardigrade communities are affected by micro and macro-environmental conditions but only micro-environmental variables, and altitudinal gradients have been studied. We review previous reports of altitudinal effects and evaluate the influence by interacting macro- (climate, soils, biome, and others) and micro-environmental (vegetation, moss and leaf litter) factors on tardigrade assemblages at the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range (Iberian Central System Mountains, Spain). Terrestrial tardigrade assemblages were sampled using standard cores to collect leaf litter and mosses growing on rocks. General Linear Models were used to examine relationships between Tardigrada species richness and abundance, and macro- and micro-environmental variables (altitude, habitat characteristics, local habitat structure and dominant leaf litter type, and two bioclimatic classifications). Variation partitioning techniques were used to separate the effects of altitude and habitat variation, and to quantify the independent influences of climate and soil, vegetation structure and dominant type of leaf litter. Altitude shows a unimodal relationship with tardigrade species richness, although its effect independent of habitat variation is negligible. The best predictors for species richness were bioclimatic classifications. Separate and combined effects of macro-environmental gradients (soil and climate), vegetation structure and leaf litter type are important determinants of richness. A model including both macro- and micro-environmental variables explained nearly 60% of tardigrade species richness in micro-scale plots. Abundance was significantly related only to soil composition and leaf litter type. Tardigrade abundance was not explained by macro-environmental gradients analysed here, despite a significant correlation between abundance and richness.


Altitude Climate Diversity gradients Iberian Peninsula Leaf litter Soil Tardigrada communities Vegetation structure Abundance Scale 



We thank Brad Hawkins, Diego Fontaneto, Dean Anderson, and several anonymous referees for their comments, suggestions and discussion which have improved greatly this paper. NG was supported during field and taxonomic work by the National Museum of Natural History (CSIC) and by the Madrid Government grant and project number: 07M/0125/2000; during writing and analysing processes she hold a Fulbright postdoctoral fellowship financed by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Spanish Government (BOE/21/05/2005) at Harvard University (Department of Organismics and Evolutionary Biology), and currently holds a postdoctoral Marie Curie fellowship in the Zoological Museum at University of Copenhagen. JH was supported by a Portuguese FCT postdoctoral grant (BPD/20809/2004), and obtained additional support from the UK Natural Environment Research Council. This work has been partially supported by the Madrid Government project number GR/AMB/0750/2004.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Noemí Guil
    • 1
    Email author
  • Joaquín Hortal
    • 2
    • 3
  • Sara Sánchez-Moreno
    • 4
  • Annie Machordom
    • 3
  1. 1.Zoological Museum, Natural History MuseumUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  2. 2.NERC Centre for Population Biology, Division of BiologyImperial College LondonBerkshireUK
  3. 3.Departmento de Biodiversidad y Biología EvolutivaMuseo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC)MadridSpain
  4. 4.Departamento de Protección VegetalInstituto Nacional de Investigación y Tecnología Agraria y Alimentaria (INIA)MadridSpain

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