Landscape Spatial Patterns in Freshwater Snail Assemblages across Northern Highland Catchments

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assemblage structure, hydrological catchments, lakes, snails, wisconsin

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1. Limnologists and landscape ecologists have illustrated how the spatial position of a lake in a landscape influences many of its properties, from the physical to the social. Taking a community ecology perspective, we investigated whether freshwater gastropod assemblages respond to lake landscape position.

2. We determined: (a) whether there is any spatial pattern among lakes in either the species richness or composition of gastropod assemblages; (b) the form of any spatial pattern; and (c) if any explanatory variables (e.g. dispersal corridors and limiting local conditions) show a similar pattern.

3. In three different hydrological catchments, snail species richness increased from isolated highland lakes to stream-connected lowland lakes, probably reflecting increased colonization potential and less limiting local factors for lowland drainage lakes. Catchments appear to differ from one another with regard to relative species abundance, both in terms of macrophyte-associated snail fauna and snails from all habitats aggregated. One or more historical events, such as chance dispersal, may have produced this pattern. Taken together, these results suggest that within-catchment constraints produce repeated gradients in species richness, regardless of what species composition persists in the catchment.

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Freshwater Biology, v. 43, issue 3, p. 409-420