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Near-natural streams: spatial factors are key in shaping multiple facets of zooplankton α and β diversity.

In near-natural basins, zooplankton are key hubs for maintaining aquatic food webs and organic matter cycles. However, the spatial patterns and drivers of zooplankton in streams are poorly understood. This study registered 165 species of zooplankton from 147 sampling sites (Protozoa, Rotifers, Cladocera and Copepods), integrating multiple dimensions (i.e., taxonomic, functional, and phylogenetic) and components (i.e., total, turnover, and nestedness) of α and β diversity. This study aims to reveal spatial patterns, mechanisms, correlations, and relative contribution of abiotic factors (i.e., local environment, geo-climatic, land use, and spatial factors) through spatial interpolation (ordinary kriging), mantal test, and analysis of variance (VPA). The study found that α diversity is concentrated in the north, while β diversity is more in the west, which may be affected by typical habitat, hydrological dynamics and underlying mechanisms. Taxonomic and phylogenetic β diversity is dominated by turnover, and metacommunity heterogeneity is the result of substitution of species and phylogeny along environmental spatial gradients. Taxonomic and phylogenetic β diversity were strongly correlated (r from 0.91 to 0.95), mainly explained by historical/spatial isolation processes, community composition, generation time, and reproductive characteristics, and this correlation provides surrogate information for freshwater conservation priorities. In addition, spatial factors affect functional and phylogenetic α diversity (26%, 28%), and environmental filtering and spatial processes combine to drive taxonomic α diversity (10%) and phylogenetic β diversity (11%). Studies suggest that spatial factors are key to controlling the community structure of zooplankton assemblages in near-natural streams, and that the relative role of localized environments may depend on the dispersal capacity of species. In terms of diversity conservation, sites with high variation in uniqueness should be protected (i) with a focus on the western part of the thousand islands lake catchment and (ii) increasing effective dispersal between communities to facilitate genetic and food chain transmission.

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