Great Lakes coastal wetlands are widely recognized as areas of concentrated biodiversity and productivity, but the factors that influence diversity and productivity within these systems are largely unknown. Several recent studies have suggested that the abundance and diversity of flora and fauna in coastal wetlands may be related to distance from the open water/macrophyte edge. We examined this possibility for three faunal groups inhabiting a coastal wetland in Saginaw Bay, Lake Huron. We sampled crustacean zooplankton and benthic macro-invertebrates at five distances from open water in the summer 1994, and fish at three distances from open water in 1994 and 1995. We found significant spatial trends in the total abundance and diversity of zooplankton and fish, as well as the diversity of benthic macro-invertebrates. Zooplankton abundance and taxa richness were highest at intermediate distances from open water in a transition zone between the well-mixed bayward portion of the wetland, and the non-circulating nearshore area. Benthic macro-invertebrate taxa richness increased linearly with distance from open water. In contrast, fish abundance and species richness declined linearly and substantially (abundance by 78%, species richness by 40%) with distance from open water. Of the 40 taxa examined in this study, 21 had significant horizontal trends in abundance. This led to notable differences in community composition throughout the wetland. Our results suggest that distance from open water may be a primary determinant of the spatial distributions of numerous organismal groups inhabiting this coastal wetland. Several possible reasons for these distributions are discussed.
- Benthic invertebrates
- Community structure
- Laurentian Great Lakes
- Physical and chemical gradients