Responses of wetland abiotic variables and aquatic invertebrate community structure to cattle stocking density, pasture type, and dominant vegetation were evaluated in subtropical pastures. Cattle were stocked at four treatment levels on improved (fertilized) and semi-native (unfertilized) pastures in south-central Florida, USA. Improved pasture wetlands were dominated either by Panicum hemitomon (maidencane) or by a mixture of Polygonum spp. (smartweed) and Juncus effusus; semi-native pasture wetlands were dominated mainly by maidencane. Cattle stocking density had few significant effects on water-column nutrient concentration or invertebrate community structure. However, water-column nutrient concentrations were significantly greater in the wetlands on improved pastures compared to semi-native pastures. Invertebrate richness and diversity were greater in wetlands on semi-native pastures than on improved pastures, despite lower nutrient concentrations in the former. Overall, the cattle stocking treatment had little impact on invertebrate community structure in these systems relative to prior pasture land use. However, vegetation type influenced invertebrate communities and explained some of the differences between pasture types. Semi-native (lower nutrient) wetland pastures dominated by maidencane had significantly greater invertebrate richness and diversity than improved (higher nutrient) wetland pastures dominated by mixed vegetation but showed no difference when compared to improved wetland pastures dominated by maidencane. Chironomids were the dominant invertebrate in wetlands of both pasture types. Correspondence analysis revealed that ostracods and Culicidae larvae might be useful as bioindicators of subtropical wetlands that are experiencing cultural eutrophication.
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Vol. 23 • No. 4