Is coarse taxonomy sufficient for detecting macroinvertebrate patterns in floodplain lakes?

Taxonomic sufficiency (TS) - defined as the minimum taxonomic detail required to discern some ecological pattern of interest has been used extensively in bioassessment and biodiversity studies as a way of avoiding a portion of the time and monetary costs associated with species diagnoses. The taxonomic sufficiency for detecting species-level patterns among floodplain-lake benthic-invertebrate assemblages remains unexplored. We examined cross-taxonomic-level congruence in assemblage-environment relationships among 23 Chinese floodplain lakes. Our objectives were: (1) to compare the correlation between species richness and density and those at coarser taxonomic resolution; (2) to identify whether assemblage-environment relationships depend on taxonomic scale; and (3) to test whether the proportion of between-lake variability accounted for by environmental variables was independent of taxonomic scale. When taxonomic structure was described using sequentially coarser taxonomic aggregations, species-level patterns of richness and abundance were sequentially obscured (i.e., genus-level taxonomy best preserved patterns in species composition, order- and class-level taxonomy poorly represented species composition). Similar environmental variables were important for distinguishing lake species assemblages and genus assemblages; however, different environmental variables were important for describing family-, order-, and class-level assemblage patters. Moreover, environmental variables accounted for a similar amount of biological variability, regardless of taxonomic scale. Our results suggest genus taxonomy as sufficient for rapid assessments of lake diversity. Numerical dominance of the species- and genus-rich Chironomidae, Tubificidae, and Naididae, may account for the marked loss of information that occurs when lake invertebrates are assigned only to their families. In summary, we describe taxonomic sufficiency to detecting patterns of richness and abundance among subtropical lake macroinvertebrate faunas. This study will interest Chinese benthologists concerned with conservation and bioassessment.