We used three isolated clusters of small ephemeral rock pools on a sandstone flat in Utah to test the importance of local structuring processes on aquatic invertebrate communities. In the three clusters we characterized all ephemeral rock pools (total: 27) for their morphometry, and monitored their water quality, hydrology and community assemblage during a full hydrocycle. In each cluster we also sampled a set of more permanent interconnected freshwater systems positioned in a wash, draining the water from each cluster of rock pools. This design allowed additional testing for the potential role of more permanent water bodies in the region as source populations for the active dispersers and the effect on the community structure in the rock pools. Species richness and community composition in the rock pools correlated with level of permanence and the ammonia concentration. The length of the rock pool inundation cycle shaped community structure, most probably by inhibiting colonization by some taxa (e.g. tadpoles and insect larvae) through developmental constraints. The gradient in ammonia concentrations probably reflects differences in primary production. The more permanent water bodies in each wash differed both environmentally and in community composition from the connected set of rock pools. A limited set of active dispersers was observed in the rock pools. Our findings indicate that aquatic invertebrate communities in the ephemeral rock pools are mainly structured through habitat permanence, possibly linked with biotic interactions and primary production. ?? 2007 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
Additional publication details
Local structuring factors of invertebrate communities in ephemeral freshwater rock pools and the influence of more permanent water bodies in the region