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Diversity and composition of macroinvertebrate communities in a rare inland salt marsh

Cite this dataset

Cahill, Abigail (2022). Diversity and composition of macroinvertebrate communities in a rare inland salt marsh [Dataset]. Dryad.


Inland salt marshes are rare habitats in the Great Lakes region of North America, formed on salt deposits from the Silurian period. These patchy habitats are abiotically stressful for the freshwater invertebrates that live there, and provide an opportunity to study the relationship between stress and diversity. We used morphological and COI metabarcoding data to assess changes in diversity and composition across both space (a transect from the salt seep to an adjacent freshwater area) and time (three sampling seasons). Richness was significantly lower at the seep site with both datatypes, while metabarcoding data additionally showed reduced richness at the freshwater transect end, consistent with a pattern where intermediate levels of stress show higher diversity. We found complementary, rather than redundant, patterns of community composition using the two datatypes: not all taxa were equally sequenced with the metabarcoding protocol. We identified taxa that are abundant at the salt seep of the marsh, including biting midges (Culicoides) and ostracods (Heterocypris). We conclude that (as found in other studies) molecular and morphological work should be used in tandem to identify the biodiversity in this rare habitat. Additionally, salinity may be a driver of community membership in this system, though further ecological research is needed to rule out alternate hypotheses.


The samples were collected from the field along a transect; sediment was collected from the surface. Field sampling was conducted in April, July, and October of 2018. Half of each sample was used for DNA metabarcoding of the COI gene, followed by bioinformatic analysis with the MOTHUR pipeline. The other half of each sample was sorted under a microscope and specimens were identified with dichotomous keys.


Albion College