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Functional non-equivalence in ecosystem engineers? Different freshwater mussels (Bivalvia: Unionidae) are associated with different macroinvertebrate communities in a subtropical lake

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Chowdhury, GW 
Aldridge, DC 


jats:titleAbstract</jats:title>jats:p jats:list

jats:list-itemjats:pFreshwater mussels (Bivalvia: Unionidae) are often described as ecosystem engineers, with the capacity to alter abiotic habitats; this can facilitate certain macroinvertebrate taxa, increasing biodiversity and potentially altering community composition. Mussel species are often implicitly considered to be broad ecological equivalents, with similar impacts on abiotic environments and benthic communities. This assumption of redundancy is important in conservation approaches that aim to preserve ecosystem functioning, rather than species identity. We tested this assumption of equivalence in two species of subtropical freshwater mussels, jats:italicLamellidens marginalis</jats:italic> and jats:italicParreysia caerulea,</jats:italic> studying the associations between these mussel species and macroinvertebrate communities.</jats:p></jats:list-item>

jats:list-itemjats:pWe measured mussel density and abundance of macroinvertebrates, identified to family level, at 50 sites within Dhanmondi Lake, a heavily polluted sub‐tropical urban lake in Dhaka, Bangladesh. We investigated the associations of mussel density on different macroinvertebrate families, which we further classified into functional feeding groups (predators, scrapers, collectors and shredders).</jats:p></jats:list-item>

jats:list-itemjats:pWe found that densities of the two mussel species were negatively correlated in the 1–3‐m nearshore zone; average density of jats:italicLamellidens</jats:italic> was 46.4 ± jats:italicSE</jats:italic> 3.6 individuals/0.25 mjats:sup2</jats:sup>, and average density of jats:italicParreysia</jats:italic> was 6.4 ± jats:italicSE</jats:italic> 1.4 individuals/0.25 mjats:sup2</jats:sup>. In total, 2319 jats:italicLamellidens</jats:italic> and 320 jats:italicParreysia</jats:italic> specimens were recorded. Sites containing higher densities of jats:italicLamellidens</jats:italic> had greater similarity in macroinvertebrate community composition, while there was no effect for jats:italicParreysia</jats:italic>. Particular macroinvertebrate families and functional feeding groups were also associated with mussels; the majority of significant associations were with jats:italicLamellidens</jats:italic> but not jats:italicParreysia</jats:italic>. The clearest associations were with predators and scrapers, which increased in abundance with jats:italicLamellidens</jats:italic> density.</jats:p></jats:list-item>

jats:list-itemjats:pThis provides support for a possible role for mussels in structuring freshwater invertebrate communities and emphasises the importance of species identity in these effects, with one possible keystone species (jats:italicLamellidens</jats:italic>) largely accounting for mussel–invertebrate associations. While microhabitat variables (shading and sediment type) were poor predictors of abundance in any invertebrate taxa (including mussels), manipulative studies are needed to disentangle the direct effects of mussels from the role of overlapping habitat preference between mussels and other invertebrates.</jats:p></jats:list-item>

jats:list-itemjats:pOur results highlight the importance of species identity in patterns of community composition, particularly for ecosystem engineer species. We also reinforce the need to test the assumption of ecological redundancy within communities.</jats:p></jats:list-item> </jats:list> </jats:p>



41 Environmental Sciences, 4102 Ecological Applications, 3103 Ecology, 31 Biological Sciences

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Freshwater Biology

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