Macrophyte architecture affects the abundance and diversity of littoral microfauna

Paloma Lucena-Moya, Ian Duggan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

34 Citations (Scopus)


We tested the hypothesis that structural complexity is an important factor influencing the abundance and taxon richness of microfauna (e.g., rotifers, copepods, cladocerans) in littoral habitats. Research on littoral microfauna has to date focused mainly on field observations, which commonly show microfauna have preference for some macrophytes over others. However, while such studies commonly conclude that macrophyte architecture is a major determinant of these variations, independent factors may also be responsible (e.g., differences in macrophyte ages, differences in macrophyte bed densities and the depth of the respective macrophyte beds sampled). We used artificial macrophytes with three levels of complexity to keep the surface area and mass of the substrate sampled constant, and to control for confounding factors not related to the complexity of the plants. Our results support the hypothesis that structural complexity is an important factor influencing abundance and taxon richness, independent of other potential confounding factors. Microfaunal (mainly rotifer) abundance and richness were generally greater on more complex artificial macrophytes, likely a result of more complex substrates (1) providing a greater variety of habitat, (2) supporting a greater concentration or variety of food and/or (3) affording greater protection against predators. Less mobile surface-associated (i.e., benthic/periphytic) taxa were found to discriminate among substrates, whereas the abundance and richness of planktonic species were not affected by complexity level. Relatively low abundances and taxon richness of microfauna recorded in control samples, which did not contain artificial macrophytes, supports the contention that vegetated areas sustain a higher abundance and variety of species than non-vegetated areas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-287
Number of pages9
JournalAquatic Ecology
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


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