Jump to Main Content
Local- to continental-scale variation in the richness and composition of an aquatic food web
- Buckley, Hannah L., Miller, Thomas E., Ellison, Aaron M., Gotelli, Nicholas J.
- Global ecology and biogeography 2010 v.19 no.5 pp. 711-723
- Sarracenia, aquatic food webs, arthropods, bacteria, chemistry, climate, environmental factors, host plants, host range, leaves, models, species diversity, British Columbia, Florida
- We investigated patterns of species richness and composition of the aquatic food web found in the liquid-filled leaves of the North American purple pitcher plant, Sarracenia purpurea (Sarraceniaceae), from local to continental scales. We sampled 20 pitcher-plant communities at each of 39 sites spanning the geographic range of S. purpurea- from northern Florida to Newfoundland and westward to eastern British Columbia. Environmental predictors of variation in species composition and species richness were measured at two different spatial scales: among pitchers within sites and among sites. Hierarchical Bayesian models were used to examine correlates and similarities of species richness and abundance within and among sites. Ninety-two taxa of arthropods, protozoa and bacteria were identified in the 780 pitcher samples. The variation in the species composition of this multi-trophic level community across the broad geographic range of the host plant was lower than the variation among pitchers within host-plant populations. Variation among food webs in richness and composition was related to climate, pore-water chemistry, pitcher-plant morphology and leaf age. Variation in the abundance of the five most common invertebrates was also strongly related to pitcher morphology and site-specific climatic and other environmental variables. The surprising result that these communities are more variable within their host-plant populations than across North America suggests that the food web in S. purpurea leaves consists of two groups of species: (1) a core group of mostly obligate pitcher-plant residents that have evolved strong requirements for the host plant and that co-occur consistently across North America, and (2) a larger set of relatively uncommon, generalist taxa that co-occur patchily.