Aquatic vascular plants, or macrophytes, are an important habitat component for many wetland organisms, and larvae of chironomid midges are ubiquitous components of wetland fauna. Many chironomids are primary consumers of algae and detritus and form an essential energetic link between allochthonous and autochthonous primary production and higher trophic levels, while others are predators and feed on smaller invertebrates. Live macrophytes serve mostly as habitat, whereas plant detritus serves as both habitat and as a food source. Assemblages of macrophytes and chironomid larvae were surveyed in ten Maine wetlands, five with low pH (<5.0) and five with high pH (>5.5), and explained in terms of physical and chemical habitat variables. Macrophyte richness was significantly greater, and richness of chironomid larvae was lower, in low pH wetlands. There was no difference in chironomid abundance related to pH. However, community structure was related to pH, suggesting that competitive dominance of a few taxa was responsible for lower richness in low pH wetlands, whereas competition was weaker in high pH wetlands, making coexistence of more chironomid taxa possible. An examination of individual chironomid taxa by stepwise multiple regression showed that distribution of most taxa was controlled by water chemistry variables and macrophyte habit (i.e., floating, submergent).
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Vol. 25 • No. 2