Mechanisms That Generate Resource Pulses in a Fluctuating Wetland
Botson, Bryan A.
Gawlik, Dale E.
Trexler, Joel C.
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Animals living in patchy environments may depend on resource pulses to meet the high energetic demands of breeding. We developed two primary a priori hypotheses to examine relationships between three categories of wading bird prey biomass and covariates hypothesized to affect the concentration of aquatic fauna, a pulsed resource for breeding wading bird populations during the dry season. The fish concentration hypothesis proposed that local-scale processes concentrate wet-season fish biomass into patches in the dry season, whereas the fish production hypothesis states that the amount of dry-season fish biomass reflects fish biomass production during the preceding wet season. We sampled prey in drying pools at 405 sites throughout the Florida Everglades between December and May from 2006–2010 to test these hypotheses. The models that explained variation in dry-season fish biomass included water-level recession rate, wet-season biomass, microtopography, submerged vegetation, and the interaction between wet-season biomass and recession rate. Crayfish (Procambarus spp.) biomass was positively associated with wet-season crayfish biomass, moderate water depth, dense submerged aquatic vegetation, thin flocculent layer and a short interval of time since the last dry-down. Grass shrimp (Palaemonetes paludosus) biomass increased with increasing rates of water level recession, supporting our impression that shrimp, like fish, form seasonal concentrations. Strong support for wet-season fish and crayfish biomass in the top models confirmed the importance of wet-season standing stock to concentrations of fish and crayfish the following dry season. Additionally, the importance of recession rate and microtopography showed that local scale abiotic factors transformed fish production into the high quality foraging patches on which apex predators depended.