Diversity and community structure of moss- and lichen-dwelling tardigrades (Tardigrada) along an altitudinal gradient in Cuba
Elevation and anthropopression are important factors affecting terrestrial water bear dynamics. In the present study, we characterize the taxonomic composition, diversity, and community structure of tardigrades along an elevational gradient with different anthropopression in Alturas de Boniato, Santiago de Cuba. Samples were collected in four sampling sites and all tardigrades were extracted. Alpha diversity indices were calculated. Hierarchical community organization was determined and variation among sampling sites was calculated using the Jaccard index for beta diversity. Some variables that influenced composition and taxon diversity were also evaluated. A total of 413 tardigrades belonging to seven taxa and five eggs were found. The most abundant taxa were Paramacrobiotus sp., Macrobiotus sp. and Milnesium sp.1. Differences between sampling sites were largely due to turnover, especially at the higher-elevation sites. Nesting characterized the lower-elevation sites. The variables that had the greatest influence on species composition were anthropopression and a mixture of various macro- and microenvironmental variables.