Intermittent pool beds are permanent cyclic habitats with distinct wet, moist and dry phases

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Abstract

Recognition that intermittent pools are a single habitat phase of an intermittent pool bed that cycles between aquatic and terrestrial habitat greatly enhances their usefulness for addressing general questions in ecology. The aquatic phase has served as a model system in many ecological studies, because it has distinct habitat boundaries in space and time and is an excellent experimental system, but the aquatic to terrestrial transition and terrestrial phase remain largely unstudied. We conducted a field experiment within six replicate natural intermittent pool beds to explore macroinvertebrate community dynamics during the transition from aquatic to terrestrial habitat and during the terrestrial phase. We monitored and compared macroinvertebrate communities within leaf packs that i) remained wet, ii) underwent drying (i.e., started wet and then dried), and iii) remained dry. Our results show that i) a diverse macroinvertebrate community inhabits all phases of intermittent pool beds, ii) pool drying involves colonization by an assemblage of macroinvertebrates not recorded in permanently terrestrial leaf packs, iii) the community within dried leaf packs remains distinct from that of permanently terrestrial leaf packs for an extended period following drying (possibly until subsequent refilling), and iv) there are likely to be strong spatial and temporal resource linkages between the aquatic and terrestrial communities. The unique environmental characteristics of intermittent pool beds, which repeatedly cycle from aquatic to terrestrial habitat, should continue to make them valuable study systems.

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Dell, A. I., Alford, R. A., & Pearson, R. G. (2014). Intermittent pool beds are permanent cyclic habitats with distinct wet, moist and dry phases. PLoS ONE, 9(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0108203

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