Testing the response of macroinvertebrate functional structure and biodiversity to flooding and confinement

The aim of the present study was to investigate the relative importance of flooding- and confinement-related environmental features in explaining macroinvertebrate trait structure and diversity in a pool of wetlands located in a Mediterranean river floodplain. To test hypothesized trait-environment relationships, we employed a recently implemented statistical procedure, the fourth-corner method. We found that flooding-related variables, mainly pH and turbidity, were related to traits that confer an ability of the organism to resist flooding (e.g., small body-shape, protection of eggs) or recuperate faster after flooding (e.g., short life-span, asexual reproduction). In contrast, confinement-related variables, mainly temperature and organic matter, enhanced traits that allow organisms to interact and compete with other organisms (e.g., large size, sexual reproduction) and to efficiently use habitat and resources (e.g., diverse locomotion and feeding strategies). These results are in agreement with predictions made under the River Habitat Templet for lotic ecosystems, and demonstrate the ability of the fourth-corner method to test hypothesis that posit traitenvironment relationships. Trait diversity was slightly higher in flooded than in confined sites, whereas trait richness was not significantly different. This suggests that although trait structure may change in response to the main environmental factors, as evidenced by the fourth-corner method, the number of life-history strategies needed to persist in the face of such constraints remains more or less constant; only their relative dominance differs ​
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