Species turnover in lake littorals: spatial and temporal variation of benthic macroinvertebrate diversity and community composition



Aims  Despite wide consensus that ecological patterns and processes should be studied at multiple spatial scales, the temporal component of diversity variation has remained poorly examined. Specifically, rare species may exhibit patterns of diversity variation profoundly different from those of dominant taxa.

Location  Southern Finland.

Methods  We used multiplicative partitioning of true diversities (species richness, Shannon diversity) to identify the most important scale(s) of variation of benthic macroinvertebrate communities across several hierarchical scales, from individual samples to multiple littorals, lakes and years. We also assessed the among-scale variability of benthic macroinvertebrate community composition by using measures of between- and within-group distances at hierarchical scales.

Results  On average, a single benthic sample contained 23% of the total regional macroinvertebrate species pool. For both species richness and Shannon diversity, beta-diversity was clearly the major component of regional diversity, with within-littoral beta-diversity (β1) being the largest component of gamma-diversity. The interannual component of total diversity was small, being almost negligible for Shannon index. Among-sample (within-littoral) diversity was related to variation of substratum heterogeneity at the same scale. By contrast, only a small proportion of rare taxa was found in an average benthic sample. Thus, dominant species among lakes and years were about the same, whereas rare species were mostly detected in a few benthic samples in one lake (or year). For rare species, the temporal component of diversity was more important than spatial turnover at most scales.

Main conclusions  While individual species occurrences and abundances, particularly those of rare taxa, may vary strongly through space and time, patterns of dominance in lake littoral benthic communities are highly predictable. Consequently, many rare species will be missed in temporally restricted samples of lake littorals. In comprehensive biodiversity surveys, interannual sampling of littoral macroinvertebrate communities is therefore needed.