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Hydrologic effects on riparian vegetation in a boreal river: an experiment testing climate change predictions
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences.
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences. (Arcum)
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences. (Arcum)
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences.
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2011 (English)In: Global Change Biology, ISSN 1354-1013, E-ISSN 1365-2486, Vol. 17, no 1, 254-267 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Climate change is expected to alter the magnitude and variation of flow in streams and rivers, hence providing new conditions for riverine communities. We evaluated plant ecological responses to climate change by transplanting turfs of riparian vegetation to new elevations in the riparian zone, thus simulating expected changes in water-level variation, and monitored the results over 6 years. Turfs moved to higher elevations decreased in biomass and increased in species richness, whereas turfs transplanted to lower elevations gained biomass but lost species. Transplanted plant communities responded slowly to the new hydrologic conditions. After 6 years, biomass of transplanted turfs was statistically indistinguishable from target level controls, but species richness and species composition of transplants were intermediate between original and target levels. By using projections of future stream flow according to IPCC climate change scenarios, we predict likely changes to riparian vegetation in boreal rivers. Climate-driven hydrologic changes are predicted to result in narrower riparian zones along the studied Vindel River in northern Sweden towards the end of the 21st century. Present riparian plant communities are projected to be replaced by terrestrial communities at high elevations as a result of lower-magnitude spring floods, and by amphibious or aquatic communities at low elevations as a result of higher autumn and winter flows. Changes to riparian vegetation may be larger in other boreal climate regions: snow melt fed spring floods are predicted to disappear in southern parts of the boreal zone, which would result in considerable loss of riparian habitat. Our study emphasizes the importance of long-term ecological field experiments given that plant communities often respond slowly and in a nonlinear fashion to external pressures.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2011. Vol. 17, no 1, 254-267 p.
Keyword [en]
biomass, climate change, flooding, productivity, reciprocal transplant experiment, river banks, species composition, species richness, water table, wetlands
National Category
Natural Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-38938DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2010.02230.xISI: 000284851500022OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-38938DiVA: diva2:385285
Available from: 2011-01-11 Created: 2011-01-11 Last updated: 2016-05-18Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Effects of climate change on boreal wetland and riparian vegetation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Effects of climate change on boreal wetland and riparian vegetation
2011 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Models of climate change predict that temperature will increase during the 21th century and the largest warming will take place at high northern latitudes. In addition to warming, predictions for northern Europe include increased annual precipitation and a higher proportion of the precipitation during winter falling as rain instead of snow. These changes will substantially alter the hydrology of rivers and streams and change the conditions for riverine communities. The warming is also expected to result in species adjusting their geographic ranges to stay within their climatic tolerances. Riparian zones and wetlands are areas where excess water determines the community composition. It is therefore likely that these systems will be highly responsive to alterations in precipitation and temperature patterns.

In this thesis we have tested the predicted responses of riparian vegetation to climate-driven hydrologic change with a six year long transplant experiment (I). Turfs of vegetation were moved to a new elevation with shorter or longer flood durations. The results demonstrate that riparian species will respond to hydrologic changes, and that without rare events such as unusually large floods or droughts, full adjustment to the new hydrological regime may take at least 10 years.

Moreover, we quantified potential effects of a changed hydrology on riparian plant species richness (II) and individual species responses (III) under different climate scenarios along the Vindel River in northern Sweden. Despite relatively small changes in hydrology, the results imply that many species will become less frequent than today, with stochastic extinctions along some reaches. Climate change may threaten riparian vegetation along some of the last pristine or near-natural river ecosystems in Europe. More extensive loss of species than predicted for the Vindel River is expected along rivers in the southern boreal zone, where snow-melt fed hydrographs are expected to be largely replaced by rain-fed ones.

With a seed sowing experiment, we tested the differences in invasibility between open wetlands, forested wetlands and riparian zones (IV). All six species introduced were able to germinate and survive in all habitats and disturbance levels, indicating that the tested wetlands are generally invisible. Germination was highest in open wetlands and riparian zones. Increasing seed sowing density increased invasion success, but the disturbance treatments had little effect. The fact that seeds germinated and survived for 2 to 3 years in all wetland habitats indicates that wetland species with sufficiently high dispersal capacity and propagule pressure would be able to germinate and establish here in their respective wetland type.

Our results clearly demonstrate that a changed climate will result in substantial changes to functioning, structure and diversity of boreal wetland and riparian ecosystems. To preserve species rich habitats still unaffected by dams and other human stressors, additional protection and management actions may have to be considered.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Institutionen för ekologi, miljö och geovetenskap, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, 2011. 30 p.
Keyword
biomass, flooding, hydrologic niche, invasibility, riparian zone, riparian plant species, river margin, climate scenario, seed sowing experiment, species composition, species richness, transplant experiment
National Category
Ecology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-43811 (URN)978-91-7459-184-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2011-06-10, Älgsalen, Uminova Science Park, Tvistevägen 48, Umeå, 10:00 (English)
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Available from: 2011-05-13 Created: 2011-05-10 Last updated: 2014-12-22Bibliographically approved

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Ström, LottaJansson, RolandNilsson, Christer

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