Habitat type as strongest predictor of the body size distribution of Chydorus sphaericus (O. F. Muller) in small water bodies
Chydorus sphaericus, a cladoceran characterized by a wide range of distribution, is often numerous in various water habitats. Its body size is a consequence of environmental characteristics and physiology. The aim of the study focused on the distribution of body size and densities of C. sphaericus in relation to environmental conditions represented by: (i) habitat types (elodeids, helophytes, and the open water); (ii) specific pond types (forest and field); (iii) pond size (surface area); (iv) the presence/lack of fish; and (v) physicochemical factors. Similar to large daphnids, in the case of the examined small water bodies, fish presence was responsible for a reduction of the body size of C. sphaericus in the zone of open water. More abundant crustacean communities and the presence of larger specimens were found among macrophytes, which indicated that aquatic vegetation offered optimal growth conditions as well as an effective refuge against fish predation. These facts reflect the necessity for maintaining a varied mosaic of habitats even in small water bodies such as the examined ponds. We found that not only the abundance of C. sphaericus but also its body size can be used as an bioindicator of environmental conditions as it preferred small and eutrophic ponds, particularly those with complex macrophyte cover (such as elodeids). Furthermore, the abundance pattern of zooplankton dominant species was affected by elodeids and fish presence as well as by the area of the ponds.