Associations among spring-dependent aquatic assemblages and environmental and land use gradients in a Mojave Desert mountain range

Authors

  • Donald W. Sada,

    1. 1 Division of Hydrologic Sciences, Desert Research Institute, 2215 Raggio Parkway, Reno, NV, 89512–1095, USA; 2 Center for Conservation Biology, Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305–5020, USA; and 3 Department of Biology/314, University of Nevada, Reno, NV 89557, USA
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  • 1 Erica Fleishman,

    Corresponding author
    1. 1 Division of Hydrologic Sciences, Desert Research Institute, 2215 Raggio Parkway, Reno, NV, 89512–1095, USA; 2 Center for Conservation Biology, Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305–5020, USA; and 3 Department of Biology/314, University of Nevada, Reno, NV 89557, USA
      Correspondence: Erica Fleishman, Center for Conservation Biology, Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305–5020, USA. Tel.: (650) 725-9914. Fax: (650) 723-5920. E-mail: efleish@stanford.edu
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  • and 2* Dennis D. Murphy 3

    1. 1 Division of Hydrologic Sciences, Desert Research Institute, 2215 Raggio Parkway, Reno, NV, 89512–1095, USA; 2 Center for Conservation Biology, Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305–5020, USA; and 3 Department of Biology/314, University of Nevada, Reno, NV 89557, USA
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Correspondence: Erica Fleishman, Center for Conservation Biology, Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305–5020, USA. Tel.: (650) 725-9914. Fax: (650) 723-5920. E-mail: efleish@stanford.edu

ABSTRACT

In many arid landscapes, springs provide the only reliable source of water. Accordingly, both native species and human land uses, including diversion of water, livestock grazing, and recreation, tend to concentrate around springs and spring-fed riparian areas. We examined whether species richness and composition of aquatic macroinvertebrates at 45 springs in the Spring Mountains, an isolated mountain range in the eastern Mojave Desert (Nevada, USA), could be predicted using readily measured environmental gradients and estimates of disturbance intensity. The Spring Mountains is a focus of regional conservation planning, and managers are charged with prioritizing its springs for conservation and rehabilitation. Our results suggested that species richness of aquatic macroinvertebrates in the Spring Mountains system may be greatest at intermediate levels of natural and human disturbance. Discharge and springbrook length appeared to be only weakly correlated with species richness, whereas neither elevation, nor water temperature, nor electrical conductance was significantly associated with species richness. Nestedness analyses demonstrated that species present in relatively depauperate locations tended to be subsets of the species present in locations that were richer in species, but that pattern did not appear to be driven by either disturbance intensity or by the environmental variables we measured. Disturbance intensity was not associated with the extent to which species presences and absences were predictable. Although our results should not be interpreted to mean that major environmental gradients and disturbance intensity have no effect on distributional patterns of aquatic invertebrates in the Spring Mountains, the ability of these variables to serve as predictors of species richness and composition may be relatively low. Springs and other wetlands in arid landscapes are characterized by isolation and unpredictable disturbances, and faunal responses to environmental gradients may tend to be individualistic and taxon-specific.

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