The effect of hydroperiod and predation on the diversity of temporary pond zooplankton communities.


In temporary pond ecosystems, it is hypothesized that the two dominant structuring forces on zooplankton communities are predation and demographic constraints due to wetland drying. Both of these forces are deterministic processes that act most strongly at opposing ends of a hydroperiod gradient. Our objective was to test how these two processes affect α- and β-diversity of zooplankton communities derived from a diverse temporary pond system. We hypothesized that decreased hydroperiod length and the presence of salamander larvae as predators would decrease β-diversity and that intermediate hydroperiod communities would have the greatest species richness. Our 1-year mesocosm experiment (n = 36) consisted of two predation treatments (present/absent) and three hydroperiod treatments (short/medium/long) fully crossed, seeded from the resting egg bank of multiple temporary ponds. In total, we collected 37 species of microcrustacean zooplankton from our mesocosms. A reduction in hydroperiod length resulted in lower α-diversity, with short-hydroperiod treatments affected most strongly. Endpoint community dissimilarity (β-diversity) was greatest in the medium-hydroperiod treatment with regard to species presence/absence, but was greatest in the long-hydroperiod treatment when abundances were included. Predation by salamander larvae led to reduced β-diversity with respect to species presence/absence, but not among abundant species, and had no effect on α-diversity. Our results suggest that environmental changes that reduce hydroperiod length would result in reduced α-diversity; however, intermediate hydroperiod length appear to enhance β-diversity within a group of wetlands.

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