Journal article

Relationships among testate amoebae (Protozoa), vegetation and water chemistry in five Sphagnum-dominated peatlands in Europe

To study the relationships between groups of organisms and the degree to which these relationships are consistent across major climatic gradients, we analysed the testate amoeba (Protozoa) communities, vegetation and water chemistry of one peatland in five countries: Switzerland, The Netherlands, Great Britain, Sweden and Finland, as part of the BERI (Bog Ecosystem Research Initiative) project. The relationships between the different data sets and subsets were investigated by means of detrended correspondence analysis, canonical correspondence analysis and Mantel permutation tests. The comparison of data on vegetation and testate amoebae showed that inter-site differences are more pronounced for the vegetation than for the testate amoebae species assemblage. Testate amoebae are a useful tool in multi-site studies and in environmental monitoring of peatlands because: (1) the number of species in Sphagnum-dominated peatlands is much higher than for mosses or vascular plants; (2) most peatland species are cosmopolitan in their distributions and therefore less affected than plants by biogeographical distribution patterns, thus differences in testate amoeba assemblages can be interpreted primarily in terms of ecology; (3) they are closely related to the ecological characteristics of the exact spot where they live, therefore they can be used to analyse small-scale gradients that play a major role in the functioning of peatland ecosystems. This study revealed the existence of small-scale vertical gradients within the vegetation and life-form niche separation in response to water chemistry. The deep-rooted plants such as Carex spp. and Eriophorum spp. are related to the chemistry of water sampled at or near the ground water table, whereas the mosses are not. Testate amoebae wereshown to be ecologically more closely related to the chemistry of water sampled at or near the water table level and to the mosses than to the deep-rooted plants.


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