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Title Geographic Variation in the Structure of Salt Marsh Arthropod Communities
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The natural environment shows variation at multiple scales, and determining how large-scale patterns relate to the local community's structure and function is a fundamental goal of ecology. Salt marshes along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts are similar in many ways, and are inhabited by the same plant and insect species. However, the Atlantic and Gulf coast areas have different tidal regimes, which may result in the two areas not functioning exactly the same. In addition, abiotic factors that vary with latitude or longitude may lead to differences between northern and southern or eastern and western sites. I hypothesized that structure and function of the coastal salt marsh varies geographically. To test this, I characterized abiotic conditions and the plant and arthropod communities at 11 sites along each coast in the late summers of 2009 and 2010. I also manipulated wrack (dead plant stems) and nutrient availability in 2 x 3 m plots at each site to evaluate geographic differences in community response. The experiment was established in 2009 and allowed to run to 2010. My sampling documented that some abiotic factors varied geographically, as did plant height, nitrogen content, and thatch cover. Although the total number of arthropods collected did not differ geographically, the trophic composition of samples showed marked variation among regions. Large-scale differences in latitude and mean tidal range are likely driving much of this variation. Arthropod community structure was little affected by wrack addition, but responded strongly to fertilization; and, the effect of fertilization varied geographically for some trophic levels. Although salt marshes are superficially similar from Maine to Texas, they may be structured differently throughout this geographic range. Therefore, extrapolating results from one geographic region to another should be done with caution.

Contributor Brittany DeLoach McCall

McCall, B.D. 2011. Geographic Variation in the Structure of Salt Marsh Arthropod Communities. M.S. Thesis. University of Houston, Houston, Texas. 51 pages.

Key Words arthropod, community ecology, Cross-site Research, geography, salt marsh, SINERR Publication, Student Publication, UGAMI Publication
File Date 2011
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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grants OCE-9982133, OCE-0620959, OCE-1237140 and OCE-1832178. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.