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Uncorrected proof. Not final version.
Trade-offs associated with environmental gradients generate patterns of diversity and govern community organisation in a landscape. In freshwaters, benthic community structure is driven by trade-offs along generally orthogonal gradients of habitat permanence and predation—where ephemeral systems are physiologically harsh because of drying stress, but inhabitants are less likely to be under the intense predation pressure of more permanent waterbodies. However, in tidal freshwaters, these two stressors are compounding, and the trade-offs associated with them are decoupled.
2. We investigated benthic community structure in a tidal freshwater habitat. These communities experience a suite of conditions atypical for a freshwater habitat: twice-daily drying; and high predation pressure by mobile fishes. We compared benthic communities at three tidal heights (low, mid, high) and contrasted these with nearby non-tidal freshwaters that varied in their hydrology (permanent, temporary).
3. We found that communities were more strongly differentiated in tidal freshwater habitats than between permanent and temporary inland freshwaters, which was surprising given the high interconnectedness and condensed longitudinal scale of tidal habitats. The differentiation of communities in tidal habitats was probably driven by the combined gradients of desiccation risk at low tide and intense predation by fish at high tide—a combination of pressures that are novel for the evolutionary history of the regional freshwater invertebrate fauna.
4. Our study provides evidence that environmental gradients can produce stronger patterns of community zonation than would be predicted for habitats that are spatially contiguous and have little or no dispersal limitation. These results give insight into how communities might respond if drivers of community structure are altered or reorganised from their regional or evolutionary norms.
McLachlan JR, Haghkerdar JM, and HS Greig (2019) Strong zonation of benthic communities across a tidal freshwater height gradient. Freshwater Biology 64: 1284-1294
post-print (i.e. final draft post-refereeing with all author corrections and edits)