Invertebrate community patterns in Mediterranean temporary wetlands along hydroperiod and salinity gradients


Aline Waterkeyn, Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Ch. Deberiotstraat 32, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium. E-mail:


1. Temporary aquatic habitats often are inhabited by a unique fauna and flora and contribute significantly to regional diversity. Temporary wetlands around the world are disappearing rapidly. The individual and interacting impacts of factors influencing community structure and dynamics in temporary wetlands are not always well known.

2. Camargue wetlands are mainly characterized by variable salinity and hydroperiod. The individual and combined impacts of these local factors, together with regional variables, on invertebrate communities remain unknown. We therefore characterized and sampled invertebrates in 30 temporary wetlands along salinity and hydroperiod gradients in the Camargue (Southern France) 3, 5 and 7 months after inundation.

3. Over the three sampling occasions, a total of 17 cladoceran species and 49 macroinvertebrate taxa were identified. Hydroperiod and salinity were the most important variables explaining variation in taxonomic composition and can be considered key factors shaping the invertebrate communities in Camargue wetlands. The impact on taxon richness was significantly positive for hydroperiod but significantly negative for salinity. Regional factors had no significant effect on the structure of the studied invertebrate communities, suggesting that dispersal was not limiting and that species sorting was the most important structuring process.

4. The results of this study suggest that the combined and interacting effects of salinization and hydrological modification of Mediterranean temporary wetlands (due to water management, climate change, etc.) can result in reduced diversity in large numbers of Mediterranean wetlands and induce a considerable decline in regional diversity of aquatic invertebrates.