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Projected changes in plant species richness and extent of riparian vegetation belts as a result of climate-driven hydrological change along the Vindel River in Sweden
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.
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences.
2012 (English)In: Freshwater Biology, ISSN 0046-5070, E-ISSN 1365-2427, Vol. 57, no 1, 49-60 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

1. Riparian plant communities are primarily structured by the hydrologic regime of the stream. Models of climate change predict increased temperatures and changed patterns of precipitation that will alter the flow of rivers and streams with consequences for riparian communities. In boreal regions of Europe, changes will result in stream flows with earlier spring flood peaks of lower magnitude, lower flows during the summer, and higher flows in autumn and winter. We quantified the effects of predicted hydrologic change on riparian plant species richness, using four different scenarios for the free-flowing Vindel River in northern Sweden.

2. We calculated the hydrologic niche of vegetation belts by relating the occurrence of species and vegetation belts to data on flood duration for 10 years preceding vegetation survey. We then used the flood duration predicted for 2071–2100 to estimate expected changes in the extent of each vegetation belt. Using species accumulation curves, we then predicted changes in plant species richness as a result of changes in extent.

3. The two most species-rich vegetation belts; the riparian forest and the willow shrub belts were predicted to decrease most in elevational extent, up to 39% and 32% respectively. The graminoid belt below the shrub belt will mainly shift upwards in elevation while the amphibious vegetation belt at the bottom of the riparian zone increases in size.

4. In the Vindel River, the riparian forest and willow shrub zone will lose most species, with reductions of 5–12% and 1–13%, respectively, depending scenario. The predicted loss from the entire riparian zone is lower, or 1–9% reduction, since many species occur in more than one vegetation belt. More extensive species losses are expected in the southern boreal zone, since much larger spring flood reductions are projected for these rivers.

5. With an expected reduction in area of the most species-rich belts, it becomes increasingly important to manage and protect riparian zones to alleviate other threats, thus minimizing the risk of species losses. Restoring river and stream reaches degraded by other impacts to gain riparian habitat is another option to avoid species losses.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. Vol. 57, no 1, 49-60 p.
Keyword [en]
climate change, flooding, species accumulation curves, river banks, water table
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-43808DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2427.2011.02694.xOAI: diva2:416073
Available from: 2011-05-10 Created: 2011-05-10 Last updated: 2014-03-11Bibliographically 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.
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
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)
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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