Water quality and zooplankton samples were collected during the ice-free periods between 1988 and 2005 from 103 oligotrophic montane lakes and ponds located in low forest to alpine vegetation zones in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington State, USA. Collectively, 45 rotifer and 44 crustacean taxa were identified. Most of the numerically dominant taxa appeared to have wide niche breadths. The average number of taxa per lake decreased with elevation and generally increased as maximum lake depths increased (especially for rotifers). With one exception, fish presence/absence did not explain the taxonomic compositions of crustacean zooplankton assemblages. Many rotifer species were common members of zooplankton assemblages in montane lakes and ponds in western North America, whereas the crustacean taxa were common to some areas of the west, but not others. Constraints of the environmental variables did not appear to provide strong gradients to separate the distributions of most zooplankton species. This suggests that interspecific competitive interactions and stochastic processes regulate the taxonomic structures of the zooplankton assemblages at the landscape level. Crustacean species that had broad niche breadths were associated with different rotifer taxa across the environmental gradients. Studies of zooplankton assemblages need to address both crustacean and rotifer taxa, not one or the other.
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Zooplankton assemblages in montane lakes and ponds of Mount Rainier National Park, Washington State, USA