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Title: Aquatic Plant Dynamics in Lowland River Networks: Connectivity, Management and Climate Change
Authors: Demars, B. O. L.
Wiegleb, G.
Harper, David M.
Broering, U.
Brux, H.
Herr, W.
First Published: 9-Apr-2014
Publisher: MDPI
Citation: Water, 2014, 6 (4), pp. 868-911
Abstract: The spatial structure and evolution of river networks offer tremendous opportunities to study the processes underlying metacommunity patterns in the wild. Here we explore several fundamental aspects of aquatic plant biogeography. How stable is plant composition over time? How similar is it along rivers? How fast is the species turnover? How does that and spatial structure affect our species richness estimates across scales? How do climate change, river management practices and connectivity affect species composition and community structure? We answer these questions by testing twelve hypotheses and combining two spatial surveys across entire networks, a long term temporal survey (21 consecutive years), a trait database, and a selection of environmental variables. From our river reach scale survey in lowland rivers, hydrophytes and marginal plants (helophytes) showed contrasting patterns in species abundance, richness and autocorrelation both in time and space. Since patterns in marginal plants reflect at least partly a sampling artefact (edge effect), the rest of the study focused on hydrophytes. Seasonal variability over two years and positive temporal autocorrelation at short time lags confirmed the relatively high regeneration abilities of aquatic plants in lowland rivers. Yet, from 1978 to 1998, plant composition changed quite dramatically and diversity decreased substantially. The annual species turnover was relatively high (20%–40%) and cumulated species richness was on average 23% and 34% higher over three and five years respectively, than annual survey. The long term changes were correlated to changes in climate (decreasing winter ice scouring, increasing summer low flows) and management (riparian shading). Over 21 years, there was a general erosion of species attributes over time attributed to a decrease in winter ice scouring, increase in shading and summer low flows, as well as a remaining effect of time which may be due to an erosion of the regional species pool. Temporal and spatial autocorrelation analyses indicated that long term hydrophyte biomonitoring, for the Water Framework Directive in lowland rivers, may be carried out at 4–6 years intervals for every 10 km of rivers. From multi-scale and abundance-range size analyses evidence of spatial isolation and longitudinal connectivity was detected, with no evidence of stronger longitudinal connectivity (fish and water current propagules dispersal) than spatial isolation (bird, wind and human dispersal) contrary to previous studies. The evidence for longitudinal connectivity was rather weak, perhaps resulting from the effect of small weirs. Further studies will need to integrate other aquatic habitats along rivers (regional species pool) and larger scales to increase the number of species and integrate phylogeny to build a more eco-evolutionary approach. More mechanistic approaches will be necessary to make predictions against our changing climate and management practices.
DOI Link: 10.3390/w6040868
ISSN: 2073-4441
Version: Publisher Version
Status: Peer-reviewed
Type: Journal Article
Rights: Copyright © the authors, 2013. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( ), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Appears in Collections:Published Articles, Dept. of Biology

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