Northern Lake Huron marshes are among the most pristine wetlands in the Great Lakes. Almost 200 invertebrate taxa were collected from eight of these marshes from 1997 through 2001. Our objective was to explore relationships between wave exposure (fetch), plant community zones and invertebrate community composition using exploratory data analysis of invertebrate relative abundance. Effective fetch, an exposure measure which integrates fetch along three directions, ranged from 0.4 to 35.3 km. Invertebrates were collected with dip nets from wet meadow, Typha, and inner and outer Scirpus zones from 3 very protected (fetch <1 km), 3 protected (fetch 1–10 km) and 2 exposed (>10 km) marshes. Correspondence analyses of invertebrate relative abundance did not plot invertebrate communities of wet meadows along fetch gradients even though 7 of 30 common taxa were significantly (p < 0.05) correlated with fetch. After removing wet meadow data, correspondence analyses of data from remaining plant zones plotted marshes according to fetch with very protected and exposed sites at opposite ends of U-shaped gradients. Most taxa were generalists, occurred in marshes in all exposure categories, and plotted in the middle of correspondence analyses plots. Characteristic taxa plotting at the very protected end of the gradient included Gammarus, Crangonyx, Caecidotea, Chironomini, Tanytarsini, most Gastropoda and Sphaeriidae. Characteristic taxa plotting at the most exposed end included Sigara, Trichocorixa, Naididae (Stylaria), Tubificidae, and Bezzia. We present a conceptual model of potential changes in invertebrate community composition along gradients of wave exposure. In very protected marshes, organic sediments, detritus, and plant density are higher and dissolved oxygen is lower than in exposed marshes. Conditions are too harsh for some taxa found in very protected marshes.

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