To test the hypothesis that morphological disparity increases while taxonomic diversity decreases in a radioactively contaminated environment, the relationship of these parameters was studied in communities (taxocenes) of rodents living in the Southern Urals in the zone of influence from the Eastern Ural Radioactive Trace (EURT) (2003–2008). Young of the year of six rodent species (98 samples) were examined in the background (control) area (0.2 Ci/km2) and in the impact area polluted with radionuclides from the EURT (750 Ci/km2). The dynamics of morphological disparity (MD), assessed with regard to average values of five exterior characters, was compared between the control and impact taxocenes. Taxonomic (taxocenotic) diversity was estimated with the Shannon index (H). Morphological disparity was found to increase significantly at low rodent abundance (in conditionally unfavorable years) and decrease at high abundance, with the value of MD in the impact taxocene being significantly higher. A negative correlation between MD and H was revealed (r = −0.70), in conformity with the above hypothesis. Discordance (difference in direction) of annual changes in the test parameters, with H increasing while MD decreases (or vice versa) was observed in unfavorable years; it can be used as an indicator of conditions unfavorable for rodent taxocenes.
Russian Journal of Ecology – Springer Journals
Published: Apr 8, 2010
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