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Variation in Niche Parameters along the Diversity Gradient of Unicellular Eukaryote Assemblages

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DOI: 10.1016/j.protis.2006.11.002
  • Boreal Region
  • Diatoms
  • Microbial Organisms
  • Niche
  • Streams
  • Ecology
  • Geography


We examined the relationship between average niche parameters and species richness of benthic diatom assemblages of boreal streams. We hypothesized that diverse assemblages should be typified by small average niche breadth of species, whereas low-diversity assemblages should be typified by broad average niche breadth. We also hypothesized that low-diversity sites should be dominated by either non-marginal species only or marginal species only, depending on the degree to which these sites could be categorized to range from environmentally typical sites to atypical sites. Niche breadth and niche position for each species were determined via Outlying Mean Index analysis. As hypothesized, we found that median niche parameters were significantly related to species richness. Median niche breadth showed both significant linear ( R 2=0.328, p<0.001) and unimodal ( R 2=0.354, p<0.001) relationship to species richness. The relationship between median niche position and species richness was best approximated by a unimodal model ( R 2=0.214, p=0.005). The underlying gradient in species richness was best accounted for by a regression model including moss cover, iron, and nitrogen, and explained 32% of variability in species richness. Our results showed that sites with high-diversity assemblages are likely to be occupied by specialists with a narrow niche breadth, whereas low diversity assemblages are dominated by generalists. Furthermore, the unimodal relationship between niche position and species richness suggested that species-poor sites may be typified by either non-marginal or marginal species.

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