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Inferences of environmental and biotic effects on patterns of eukaryotic alpha and beta diversity for the spring systems of Ash Meadows, Nevada

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Abstract

Freshwater springs are important ecosystems. In the arid regions of North America, groundwater extraction has caused the desiccation of springs and the extinction of taxa. To better describe the biodiversity of freshwater springs in the hope of establishing a sensitive approach for monitoring the predicted change in spring systems, we used high-resolution genetic methods to estimate the alpha and beta diversity of 19 springs and two reservoirs within the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Nevada. We discovered a large number of distinct taxa based on eukaryote ribosomal gene sequences and show water temperature, spring size, and the presence or absence of non-native predators predicts alpha diversity, and temperature predicts beta diversity. Our study highlights how DNA data support inferences of environmental factors influencing community diversity and demonstrates the method may be an important tool for monitoring ecological communities.

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Acknowledgements

Funding was provided by a departmental Graduate Student Research Grant. Thanks to Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge for permitting sampling of springs. Thanks also to Cristi Baldino, Darrick Weissenfluh, Will Thomas, Jon Leff, Joey Knelman, Jessica Henley, Noah Fierer, Diana Nemergut, Kendi Davies, Nolan Kane, and the Martin Lab group. We are especially grateful for the reviews provided by Leon Barmuta, Joel Trexler, and two anonymous reviewers; their knowledge and attention to detail greatly improved our paper. All remaining errors and omissions are attributable to the authors.

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ELP and APM conceived of and designed the study. ELP performed the fieldwork and lab work. ELP and APM conducted analyses and wrote the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Elizabeth L. Paulson.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

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Communicated by Leon A. Barmuta.

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Paulson, E.L., Martin, A.P. Inferences of environmental and biotic effects on patterns of eukaryotic alpha and beta diversity for the spring systems of Ash Meadows, Nevada. Oecologia 191, 931–944 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-019-04526-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-019-04526-6

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