The shallow-sloping coastal bathymetry of Saginaw Bay (Lake Huron) supports broad fringing wetlands. Because benthic invertebrates form an important forage base for fish, wading birds, and waterfowl that utilize these habitats, understanding the drivers of invertebrate community structure has significant management implications. We used Great Lakes basin-wide data from 2002 to place Saginaw Bay wetland invertebrate communities and their environmental drivers into a basin-wide context. Various aspects of community structure were highly correlated with fetch and watershed agriculture across the basin. Saginaw Bay wetlands had relatively high fetch and watershed agriculture and supported unique invertebrate communities, typified by high abundances of many insect taxa. Wetlands from other regions around the basin tended to have more crustaceans and gastropods than the Saginaw Bay wetlands. A 1997-2012 time series from three representative Saginaw Bay wetlands revealed substantial shifts in community structure throughout the period, especially from 2001 through 2004. These years followed a 1-m decline in Lake Huron water levels that occurred between 1997 and 2000. Major community changes included decreasing insect abundance, especially chironomids, and increasing crustacean abundances, especially Hyalella azteca (Amphipoda). While factors in addition to water levels were likely also important, our time series analysis reveals the marked temporal dynamics of Saginaw Bay wetland invertebrate communities and suggests that water level decline may have influenced these communities substantially. Both the spatial and temporal community patterns that we found should be considered in future bio-assessments utilizing wetland invertebrates.
|Journal||Journal of Great Lakes Research|
|State||Published - 2014|