Title page for ETD etd-11152010-105242

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Hanel, Christine
URN etd-11152010-105242
Document Title The distribution and abundance of macro-invertebrates in the major vegetation communities of Marion Island and the impact of alien species
Degree MSc
Department Zoology and Entomology
Advisor Name Title
Prof S Chown Supervisor
  • Marion Island
  • macro-invertebrates
Date 1999-04-01
Availability unrestricted
In this study macro-invertebrates were sampled quantitatively in 10 lowland vegetation communities on Marion Island over a one-year period commencing in May 1996 as part of a larger investigation into the distribution, abundance and species energy use of invertebrates across an altitudinal transect on Marion Island. The data collected for this particular study were used to investigate the habitat specificity and seasonality of the macro-invertebrates, as well as the impact of alien species on the local community. As part of the latter study a watching brief for alien species was kept throughout the field year and the alien species list was updated accordingly. The quantitative data were also used to compare changes in the density and biomass of selected macro-invertebrate species between 1976/77 and 1996/97 by reworking the data on macro-invertebrates collected by Alan Burger in 1976/77 during the course of his work on the Lesser Sheathbill. In the current study it was found that the majority of the macro-invertebrate species are not particularly habitat specific. Rather, they generally prefer either moist mire habitats, or the more well-drained non-mire vegetation complexes. In addition, many of the species had pronounced peaks in abundance in a given season (winter, summer, autumn and spring peaks were recorded), although this seasonality varied between species and between habitats for a given species. Although this finding does not support previous generalizations concerning an absence of seasonality in sub-Antarctic invertebrates, it does show that sub-Antarctic invertebrates, like their Antarctic counterparts, may have extremely flexible life history strategies. Limnophyes minimus was found to be one of the most abundant alien species on the island, and reached high densities in most of the plant communities sampled, with the highest density being recorded in the Cotula plumosa biotically influenced community (annual mean of 4365 individuals.m-2 ) and the lowest in the Crassula moschata salt spray community (annual mean of 41 individuals.m-2 ). Estimates of litter ingestion indicated that L. minimus larvae are capable of consuming between 0.07 and 8.54 g(dry mass)m-2 per year, depending on the community. In some communities this litter consumption amounted to an order of magnitude more than that consumed by Pringleophaga marioni (Lepidoptera, Tineidae). Although the larvae of this moth species are thought to represent the bottleneck to nutrient recycling on the island, this study showed that midge larvae may also contribute substantially to this process. As a consequence, the considerable changes that have been predicted to occur in Marion Island's terrestrial ecosystem as a consequence of enhanced predation by mice on P. marioni larvae, may be retarded or obscured by the contribution of the midge larvae to nutrient cycling. Hence, it is suggested that greater attention be given to the small and inconspicuous elements of the alien sub-Antarctic faunas because such species may have profound consequences for ecosystem functioning on these islands. The likely impact of alien species on the terrestrial macro-invertebrates, and the communities they belong to, was further highlighted by the dramatic decline in the biomasses of the macro-invertebrates between 1976/77 and 1996/97. Significant declines in biomass of between 83-97% were found for Lepidoptera larvae (mostly Pringleophaga marioni) and for weevils, the major prey species of the introduced house mouse between 1976/77 and 1996/97, although non-prey species appear to have shown either no changes (the indigenous snail Notodicus hookeri) or increases in abundance (the introduced slug Deroceras caruanae). However, differences in sampling strategies adopted by these two studies and others investigating macro-invertebrate abundances mean that the current results may well be underestimates of change, while other studies must be interpreted with considerable caution. Nonetheless, the current findings and those of authors suggest that mice may be having pronounced impacts on the terrestrial ecosystem at Marion Island. In sum, the findings of this thesis indicate that considerably more attention must be given to well-planned collaborative work to address critically important management questions, identified by the Prince Edward Island Management Committee, and that considerable care must be taken to prevent the further introduction of alien species to sub-Antarctic islands.

Copyright 1999, University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Hanel, C 1999, The distribution and abundance of macro-invertebrates in the major vegetation communities of Marion Island and the impact of alien species, MSc dissertation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-11152010-105242 / >


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