, Volume 167, Issue 2, pp 513–524

Species traits predict assembly of mayfly and stonefly communities along pH gradients

Community ecology - Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00442-011-2003-3

Cite this article as:
Petrin, Z. Oecologia (2011) 167: 513. doi:10.1007/s00442-011-2003-3


Much recent ecological research has centred on the interrelations between species diversity and ecological processes. In the present study, I show how species traits may aid in comprehending ecology by studying the link between an environmental variable and functional traits. I examined the composition of species traits with a theoretically underpinned relationship to ecological processes along a pH gradient. I focused on body size, reproductive output, life cycle length and feeding habit of mayflies and stoneflies. In mayfly assemblages, I found smaller body size, greater reproductive output, faster life cycles and a larger proportion of gathering collectors and scrapers with increasing pH. In stonefly assemblages, I found smaller body size, greater reproductive output and faster life cycles at sites with a history of long-term natural acidification, but no clear trends in feeding habits and in most traits where acidification is anthropogenic. The results suggest that mayflies and stoneflies exhibit different ecological functions following different ecological strategies. Mayflies follow an opportunistic strategy relative to stoneflies, likely facilitating high rates of ecological processes with respect to the autotrophic resource base at neutral sites. Relative to mayflies, stoneflies follow an equilibrium strategy contributing to ecological functioning in heterotrophic ecosystems and likely maintaining heterotrophic processes despite the erosion of species diversity in response to acidification. The rules governing an ecological community may be more readily revealed by studying the distribution of species traits instead of species diversity; by studying traits, we are likely to improve our understanding of the workings of ecological communities.


Biodiversity Ecological functioning Ephemeroptera Plecoptera Trait diversity 

Supplementary material

442_2011_2003_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (133 kb)
Online Resource 1: Functional traits of mayfly and stonefly species. (PDF 132 kb)
442_2011_2003_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (101 kb)
Online Resource 2: Redundancy analyses of the effects of environmental variables on mayfly and stonefly trait composition. (PDF 100 kb)
442_2011_2003_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (352 kb)
Online Resource 3: Effects of pH and region on the life cycles and feeding habits of mayfly assemblages. (PDF 351 kb)
442_2011_2003_MOESM4_ESM.pdf (372 kb)
Online Resource 4: Effects of pH and region on the life cycles and feeding habits of stonefly assemblages. (PDF 372 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA)TrondheimNorway

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