Studies that consider both biotic and abiotic determinants of organisms are rare, but critical to delineate underlying determinants of community richness (number of taxa) and abundance (number of larvae per water body). In this study, we consider the importance of disturbance (salinity) and predator and competitor variables on mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae) in small ephemeral water bodies across the Wheatbelt of Western Australia. Similar to mosquitoes, and contrary to general perceptions, nonculicid aquatic fauna (aquatic fauna) had a common occurrence (number or percentage of water bodies occupied) and were abundant (average density) in ephemeral water bodies, albeit with a simplified trophic structure. The occurrence and density (number per unit area) of aquatic fauna between water bodies were highly variable, but general relationships of aquatic fauna with rainfall, water body surface area, salinity, and mosquitoes were apparent. In contrast to mosquitoes, the density of aquatic fauna declined with recent rainfall, implying mosquitoes may colonize newly created water bodies more quickly than aquatic fauna. Assemblages (richness and density of taxa) of aquatic fauna changed along a salinity gradient, as did mosquitoes, and this was pronounced for predator groups. Densities of mosquitoes were not limited by any single taxonomic group, by a negative relationship. However, the density and richness of mosquitoes generally declined in association with increased richness of predators and density of all other taxa (taxa not specifically classified as predators or competitors of mosquitoes). These relationships may account for higher densities of mosquitoes in smaller water bodies, where richness of predators is reduced and the density of other taxa does not differ from larger water bodies. Our results also suggest salinity in the Western Australia Wheatbelt may facilitate greater abundance of halotolerant mosquitoes, Aedes alboannulatus Macquart and Aedes camptorhynchus Thomson (a vector of Ross River virus [Togoviridae: Alphavirus]), by releasing them from biotic regulation.
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