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Taxonomic and functional macroinvertebrate diversity of high‐altitude ponds in the Macun Cirque, Switzerland

journal contribution
posted on 25.08.2021, 08:34 by Matthew J Hill, Paul WoodPaul Wood, Kate MathersKate Mathers
Global environmental change is threatening freshwater biodiversity with ecological impacts predicted to be particularly severe in high-altitude regions. Despite this, an ecological understanding of high-altitude pond networks remains patchy, with only limited knowledge of the environmental and spatial predictors of taxonomic and functional diversity. Moreover, previous studies of pond ecosystems have focused primarily on taxonomic richness and largely overlooked functional diversity.
This study examined the influence of local environmental and spatial factors on taxonomic and functional α and β diversity (including the turnover and nestedness-resultant components) of 17 high-altitude (~2,500 m above sea level) pond macroinvertebrate communities, in the Macun Cirque, Switzerland.
Spatial processes (pond connectivity) were important drivers for taxonomic α diversity, while local environmental variables (pond permanence and surface area) were important determinants of functional α diversity. Species turnover was the most important component of β diversity for taxonomic composition, and functional composition demonstrated a nested spatial pattern.
Variation in taxonomic and functional composition (and the turnover and nestedness components of β diversity) were determined by local environmental variables despite the limited environmental gradients within the pond network. No significant effects of spatial variables on community composition were recorded for either facet of diversity, indicating that compositional variation was determined at a local scale. Water temperature, depth and pond permanence were consistently the most important measured drivers of diversity.
Given the importance of both spatial and environmental variables in structuring taxonomic and functional diversity, landscape-scale conservation and management activities that aim to improve or protect high-altitude freshwater biodiversity should focus on maintaining connectivity among ponds and environmental heterogeneity, particularly pond surface area, water depth, and hydroperiod. Understanding the mechanisms driving taxonomic and functional diversity will be critically important for the management and conservation of macroinvertebrate communities in high-altitude pond networks in the face of climatic warming.


Swiss National Park Research Grant



  • Social Sciences and Humanities


  • Geography and Environment

Published in

Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems




AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Rights holder

© John Wiley & Sons, Ltd

Publisher statement

This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: HILL, M.J., WOOD, P.J. and MATHERS, K.L., 2021. Taxonomic and functional macroinvertebrate diversity of high-altitude ponds in the Macun Cirque, Switzerland. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, doi:10.1002/aqc.3691, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions. This article may not be enhanced, enriched or otherwise transformed into a derivative work, without express permission from Wiley or by statutory rights under applicable legislation. Copyright notices must not be removed, obscured or modified. The article must be linked to Wiley’s version of record on Wiley Online Library and any embedding, framing or otherwise making available the article or pages thereof by third parties from platforms, services and websites other than Wiley Online Library must be prohibited.

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Dr Kate Mathers. Deposit date: 24 August 2021