Spatially structured environmental filtering of collembolan traits in late successional salt marsh vegetation

L.A. Widenfalk, J. Bengtsson, Å. Berggren, K. Zwiggelaar, E. Spijkman, F. Huyer-Brugman, M.P. Berg

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    Both the environment and the spatial configuration of habitat patches are important factors that shape community composition and affect species diversity patterns. Species have traits that allow them to respond to their environment. Our current knowledge on environment to species traits relationships is limited in spite of its potential importance for understanding community assembly and ecosystem function. The aim of our study was to examine the relative roles of environmental and spatial variables for the small-scale variation in Collembola (springtail) communities in a Dutch salt marsh. We used a trait-based approach in combination with spatial statistics and variance partitioning, between environmental and spatial variables, to examine the important ecological factors that drive community composition. Turnover of trait diversity across space was lower than for species diversity. Most of the variation in community composition was explained by small-scale spatial variation in topography, on a scale of 4–6 m, most likely because it determines the effect of inundation, which restricts where habitat generalists can persist. There were only small pure spatial effects on species and trait diversity, indicating that biotic interactions or dispersal limitation probably were less important for structuring the community at this scale. Our results suggest that for springtails, life form (i.e. whether they live in the soil or litter or on the surface/in vegetation) is an important and useful trait to understand community assembly. Hence, using traits in addition to species identity when analysing environment–organism relationships results in a better understanding of the factors affecting community composition.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)537-549
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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