Effects of macrophyte growth forms on invertebrate communities in saline lakes of the Wyoming High Plains


In saline lakes, areal cover and both species and structural diversity of macrophytes often decline as salinity increases. To assess effects of the loss of certain macrophyte growth forms, we characterized benthic and epiphytic invertebrates in three growth forms (thin-stemmed emergents, erect aquatics, and low macroalgae) in oligosaline lakes (0.8–4.2 mS cm−1) of the Wyoming High Plains, USA. We also measured the biomass and taxonomic composition of epiphytic and benthic invertebrates in two erect aquatics with very similar structure that are found in both oligosaline (Potamogeton pectinatus) and mesosaline (9.3–23.5 mS cm−1) (Ruppia maritima) lakes. Although total biomass of epiphytic invertebrates varied among oligosaline lakes, the relative distribution of biomass among growth forms was similar. For epiphytic invertebrates, biomass per unit area of lake was lowest in emergents and equivalent in erect aquatics and low macroalgae; biomass per unit volume of macrophyte habitat was greatest in low macroalgae. For benthic invertebrates, biomass was less beneath low macroalgae than other growth forms. Taxonomic composition did not differ appreciably between growth forms for either benthic or epiphytic invertebrates, except that epiphytic gastropods were more abundant in erect aquatics. Total biomass of epiphytic and benthic invertebrates for the same growth form (erect aquatic) did not differ between oligosaline (Potamogeton pectinatus) and mesosaline (Ruppia maritima) lakes, but taxonomic composition did change. In the oligosaline to mesosaline range, direct toxic effects of salinity appeared important for some major taxa such as gastropods and amphipods. However, indirect effects of salinity, such as loss of macrophyte cover and typically higher nutrient levels at greater salinities, probably have larger impacts on total invertebrate biomass lake-wide.


Earth Systems Research Center

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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996