Aquatic invertebrates are important food resources for wintering waterbirds, and prey selection generally is limited by prey size. Aquatic invertebrate communities are influenced by sediments and hydrologic characteristics of wetlands, which were affected by structural marsh management (levees, water-control structures and impoundments; SMM) and salinity on the Gulf Coast Chenier Plain of North America. Based on previous research, we tested general predictions that SMM reduces biomass of infaunal invertebrates and increases that of epifaunal invertebrates and those that tolerate low levels of dissolved oxygen (O2) and salinity. We also tested the general prediction that invertebrate biomass in freshwater, oligohaline, and mesohaline marshes are similar, except for taxa adapted to specific ranges of salinity. Finally, we investigated relationships among invertebrate biomass and sizes, sediment and hydrologic variables, and marsh types. Accordingly, we measured biomass of common invertebrate by three size classes (63 to 199 ??m, 200 to 999 ??m, and ???1000 ??m), sediment variables (carbon content, C:N ratio, hardness, particle size, and O, penetration), and hydrologic variables (salinity, water depth,temperature, 02, and turbidity) in ponds of impounded freshwater (IF), oligohaline (IO), mesohaline (IM), and unimpounded mesohaline (UM) marshes during winters 1997-1998 to 1999-2000 on Rockefeller State Wildlife Refuge, near Grand Chenier, Louisiana, USA. As predicted, an a priori multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) contrast indicated that biomass of an infaunal class of invertebrates (Nematoda, 63 to 199 ??m) was greater in UM marsh ponds than in those of IM marshes, and biomass of an epifaunal class of invertebrates (Ostracoda, 200 to 999 ??m) was greater in IM marsh ponds than in those of UM marshes. The observed reduction in Nematoda due to SMM also was consistent with the prediction that SMM reduces invertebrates that do not tolerate low salinity. Furthermore, as predicted, an a priori MANOVA contrast indicated that biomass of a single invertebrate class adapted to low salinity (Oligochaeta, 200 to 999 ??m) was greater in ponds of IF marshes than in those of IO and IM marshes. A canonical correspondence analysis indicated that variation in salinity and O2 penetration best explained differences among sites that maximized biomass of the common invertebrate classes. Salinity was positively correlated with the silt-clay fraction, O2, and O2 penetration, and negatively correlated with water depth, sediment hardness, carbon, and C:N. Nematoda, Foraminifera, and Copepoda generally were associated with UM marsh ponds and high salinity, whereas other invertebrate classes were distributed among impounded marsh ponds and associated with lower salinity. Our results suggest that SMM and salinity have relatively small effects on invertebrate prey of wintering waterbirds in marsh ponds because they affect biomass of Nematoda and Oligochaeta, and few waterbirds consume these invertebrates. ?? 2003, The Society of Wetland Scientists.
Additional publication details
Effects of structural marsh management and salinity on invertebrate prey of waterbirds in marsh ponds during winter on the Gulf Coast Chenier Plain