Differences in macroinvertebrate community structure and composition were examined from April 1980 to March 1981 in three potholes that had been ditched for mosquito control and three natural (i.e. unditched) potholes, which are located in a San Francisco Bay, California, U.S.A. salt marsh. Measurements of incipient tidal flooding into potholes (i.e. pothole inundation threshold) indicated that these sites comprise a gradient of tidal influences. Exponential decreases in the frequency and duration of tidal inundation corresponded to linear increases in inundation threshold. Since ditched study sites had low thresholds they tended to be more uniformly and regularly influenced by tides, were less saline, had less variable temperature regimens, and supported less filamentous algae than natural potholes. Habitat conditions were generally more similar among ditched than unditched potholes, but environmental conditions were most severe at natural sites near the upper limit of the inundation threshold gradient, where some potholes desiccate during the dry season each year. Differences in macroinvertebrate communities corresponded to differences in habitat conditions. Species richness and diversity (Simpson's Index) were generally highest near the middle of the inundation threshold gradient, which is a pattern predicted by the Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis. Analysis of faunal composition using discriminant functions indicated more similarity among potholes located at the lowest positions of the inundation gradient than among potholes with intermediate thresholds. Since ditching lowers the inundation thresholds of potholes, it reduces species richness and diversity, while increasing faunal similarity. As a result, extensive ditching to control salt marsh mosquitoes can reduce the overall complexity of lentic macroinvertebrate communities. © 1985.
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