Theoretical habitat templets, species traits, and species richness: aquatic insects in the Upper Rhône River and its floodplain



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    1. URA CNRS 1451 ‘Ecologie des Eaux Douces et des Grands Fleuves’, Université Lyon I, 69 622 Villeurbanne Cedex, France
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*Address for correspondence: Centre de Recherches Ecologiques de l'Université de Metz, BP 4116, 57 040 Metz Cedex 1, France


  • 1For five orders of Insecta (Plecoptera, Ephemeroptera, Odonata, Trichoptera, and Coleoptera) in two sites of the Upper Rhône River (France), the following are examined: (i) relationships among nineteen species traits; (ii) habitat utilization of species; (iii) the relationship between species traits and habitat utilization; and (iv) trends of species traits and species richness in a templet of spatial-temporal habitat variability.
  • 2The species traits having the highest correlations correspond to reproduction, life cycle, nutritional, and morphological features. Species trait characteristics of Coleoptera are distinctly contrasted with those of Plecoptera and Ephemeroptera; Odonata and Trichoptera are intermediate to these orders.
  • 3The distribution of species in fourteen habitat types of the Upper Rhône River floodplain demonstrates a transverse gradient from the main channel to the oxbow lakes and the temporary water habitats, and a vertical gradient from interstitial to superficial habitats.
  • 4Despite a significant relationship between species traits and habitat utilization, superposition between species traits and habitat utilization is limited. At the order level, species form usually one (Ephemeroptera, Trichoptera, Odonata) or several (Coleoptera) groups of relatively homogeneous species traits; however, the species of each of these groups utilize rather different habitat types.
  • 5Only for some life history traits, e.g. the minimum age of reproduction or the number of reproductive cycles per year, do the trends observed in the framework of spatial—temporal variability of habitat types agree with the predictions from the river habitat templet. This mismatch mainly results from the unique phylogenetic history of the Coleoptera compared with that of the other four orders.
  • 6Species richness peaks at an intermediate level of temporal variability; however, it does not gradually increase with increasing spatial variability, nor increase from low to intermediate temporal variability.