Fairy, tadpole, and clam shrimps (Branchiopoda) in seasonally inundated clay pans in the western Mojave Desert and effect on primary producers.Saline Systems 2010; 6:11SS
Fairy shrimps (Anostraca), tadpole shrimps (Notostraca), clam shrimps (Spinicaudata), algae (primarily filamentous blue-green algae [cyanobacteria]), and suspended organic particulates are dominant food web components of the seasonally inundated pans and playas of the western Mojave Desert in California. We examined the extent to which these branchiopods controlled algal abundance and species composition in clay pans between Rosamond and Rogers Dry Lakes. We surveyed branchiopods during the wet season to estimate abundances and then conducted a laboratory microcosm experiment, in which dried sediment containing cysts and the overlying algal crust were inundated and cultured. Microcosm trials were run with and without shrimps; each type of trial was run for two lengths of time: 30 and 60 days. We estimated the effect of shrimps on algae by measuring chlorophyll content and the relative abundance of algal species.
We found two species of fairy shrimps (Branchinecta mackini and B. gigas), one tadpole shrimp (Lepidurus lemmoni), and a clam shrimp (Cyzicus setosa) in our wet-season field survey. We collected Branchinecta lindahli in a pilot study, but not subsequently. The dominant taxa were C. setosa and B. mackini, but abundances and species composition varied greatly among playas. The same species found in field surveys also occurred in the microcosm experiment. There were no significant differences as a function of experimental treatments for either chlorophyll content or algal species composition (Microcoleus vaginatus dominated all treatments).
The results suggest that there was no direct effect of shrimps on algae. Although the pans harbored an apparently high abundance of branchiopods, these animals had little role in regulating primary producers in this environment.