Meiofaunal communities associated with bryophytes and gravels in shaded and unshaded alpine streams in New Zealand
New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 261: 115-125
Meiofauna associated with bryophyte and gravel habitats in two small alpine streams was investigated to determine its potential importance to stream communities. These invertebrates are traditionally neglected in stream surveys and their ecological roles poorly understood. Twenty-one operational taxonomic units (OTUs) were found during the study, of which at least six were undescribed (two Copepoda and four Acarina). Meiofaunal densities were higher at the unshaded site than the shaded site, and higher within bryophyte than gravel habitats. Stepwise multiple regression analyses illustrated the importance of bryophytes to members of the meiofauna in each stream, and different meiofaunal communities were found associated with aquatic bryophytes and gravels. The high densities of Chironomidae, Nematoda, Copepoda, Tardigrada, and Rotifera associated with bryophytes may reflect the food value of the high periphyton biomass associated with these plants, and the shelter they offer from fast water currents. Although hyporheic meiofaunal taxa are known to move into interstices of mineral substratum for shelter, meiofauna associated with bryophytes dwell among stems and in leaf axils where they also find shelter. Because bryophyte-dwelling meiofauna occur in very high densities, they probably play an important, if as yet unknown, role in energy transfer in streams.