Past efforts to explain variation of invertebrate assemblages in freshwater wetlands have been less productive than anticipated. To explore why efforts are disappointing, we assembled large invertebrate data sets from North Dakota prairie potholes, California rock pools, and Georgia Carolina bay wetlands that addressed spatial (among wetlands) and temporal (among seasons and years) variation. We anticipated that these large data-set sizes would enable robust conclusions to be drawn, and each place had unique environmental conditions that might contribute to greater explanatory power. We used statistical techniques that partitioned variation in invertebrate assemblages into spatial and/or temporal components, and that also yielded a measure of the amount of unexplained variation; Permutational Multivariate Analysis of Variation and Principal Coordinates Analysis assessed whole assemblage variation, and Analysis of Variance or Analysis of Covariance assessed variation in taxon richness, total abundances, and abundances of wide-spread individual taxa. Across all locations, variation explained by spatial and temporal factors, and unexplained variation were of comparable magnitudes (i.e., similar R2 values of ~ 50%). Review of other published studies indicate that this pattern is widespread. The 50% or more unexplained variation is typically ignored by researchers, who instead focus on explained fractions. We argue that, besides addressing explained spatial and temporal variation in invertebrate assemblages (e.g., control by hydrology, resources, predation), efforts to understand what contributes to currently unexplained variation, that is unrelated to local spatial or temporal controls (e.g., broad climatic and biogeographic patterns, organism physiology and behavior), will lead to a fuller comprehension of how invertebrates in freshwater wetlands are controlled.
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Federally funded data for this study (North Dakota sites) are available in a U.S. Geological Survey data release (Mushet et al. 2017). At the time of publication, Georgia and California data were not published but are available from DPB upon reasonable request.
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We thank Sarah Laske (USGS) for reviewing the manuscript. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.
Data-collection efforts at the Cottonwood Lake Study Area were supported by the U.S. Geological Survey’s Climate Research and Development Program. JMK and DAB were supported by a Central Valley Project Conservation Program Grant (RS15AS00048) from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Additional funding provided by the East Bay Regional Park District, Oakland, CA. DPB was supported by the USDA Hatch Program.
The authors have no known conflicts of interest.
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Reindl, S., McLean, K.I., Kneitel, J.M. et al. Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Getting the Same Result: Assessing Variance in Wetland Invertebrate Assemblages. Wetlands 43, 84 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-023-01734-y