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Local and regional processes determine plant species richness in a river-network metacommunity
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences. (Landscape ecology)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3896-8466
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences. (Landscape ecology ; Arcum)
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences.
Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet.
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2015 (English)In: Ecology, ISSN 0012-9658, E-ISSN 1939-9170, Vol. 96, no 2, 381-391 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

River systems form dendritic ecological networks that influence the spatial structure of riverine communities. Few empirical studies have evaluated how regional, dispersal-related processes and local habitat factors interact to govern network patterns of species composition. We explore such interactions in a boreal watershed and show that riparian plant species richness increases strongly with drainage size, i.e., with downstream position in the network. Assemblage composition was nested, with new species successively added downstream. These spatial patterns in species composition were related to a combination of local and regional processes. Breadth in local habitat conditions increased downstream in the network, resulting in higher habitat heterogeneity and reduced niche overlap among species, which together with similar trends in disturbance, allows more species to coexist. Riparian edaphic conditions were also increasingly favorable to more species within the regional pool along larger streams, with greater nitrogen availability (manifested as lower C:N) and more rapid mineralization of C and N (as indicated by ratios of stable isotopes) observed with downstream position in the network. The number of species with capacity for water dispersal increased with stream size providing a mechanistic link between plant traits and the downstream accumulation of species as more propagules arrive from upstream sites. Similarity in species composition between sites was related to both geographical and environmental distance. Our results provide the first empirical evidence that position in the river network drives spatial patterns in riparian plant diversity and composition by the joint influence of local (disturbance, habitat conditions, and breadth) and regional (dispersal) forces.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 96, no 2, 381-391 p.
Keyword [en]
boreal, connectivity, dispersal, disturbance, hydrochory, riparian, river network, soil conditions, spatial organization, vascular plants
National Category
Environmental Sciences Ecology
Research subject
biology, Environmental Science; Ecological Botany
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-100211DOI: 10.1890/14-0552.1ISI: 000350484600010OAI: diva2:790777
Swedish Research Council Formas
Available from: 2015-02-25 Created: 2015-02-25 Last updated: 2016-09-05Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Grow with the flow: Hydrological controls of riparian vegetation in boreal stream networks
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Grow with the flow: Hydrological controls of riparian vegetation in boreal stream networks
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

What drives species diversity across landscapes is one of the most fundamental questions in ecology. Further, understanding the mechanisms underlying species diversity patterns is important not only for forming and challenging ecological theories but also essential for appropriate landscape management and effective nature conservation. This thesis focuses on patterns of vascular plant, moss and liverwort species richness and composition in relation to water flow in boreal-forest catchments, focusing mostly on riparian zones (RZs), that is terrestrial areas bordering streams and rivers. I addressed some of the most essential questions related to the ecology of riparian vegetation including the role of stream network position, groundwater (GW) flow paths, substrate availability, upland perturbations, and stream restoration. I also investigated how riparian soil processes and habitat properties relate to these factors in order to provide a holistic understanding of riparian dynamics. The results showed that the species richness and composition of riparian vascular plants, mosses and liverworts are strongly influenced by position along the stream network, GW discharge, presence of variable substrates in RZs, and by stream restoration. Generally, more species were found downstream in the network, at sites with inputs of upland GW, sites with high diversity of substrates (e.g., open mineral soil, rocks, stones, wood and bark), and along streams restored after channelization. This thesis also describes how riparian habitat properties responded to position in the landscape and human impacts, thus providing mechanistic links between plant species diversity and riparian processes across spatial scales. These ecological insights are further implemented into numerous recommendations for freshwater and upland management in boreal Sweden. Given that streams and rivers connect landscape elements both longitudinally and laterally I argue that management plans should be designed for entire catchments instead of individual river segments. Ignoring the connectivity of streams as well as the high connectivity of riparian areas to uplands via GW flows may result in failure of restoration, mitigation and/or protection actions. Further, during forestry operations more emphasis should be placed on GW discharge areas along streams and rivers, because they represent important ecological and biogeochemical hotspots in the landscape. The riparian buffers left along streams in boreal catchments affected by forestry are presently insufficiently wide and often uniform in width. This threatens the assemblages of species in GW discharge hotspots and the ecosystem services they provide. Overall, this thesis describes a holistic picture of riparian diversity patterns and riparian processes in boreal landscapes, acknowledges and elaborates on current ecological theories, presenting new patterns in biodiversity, and offers management guidelines. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå Univeristy, 2015. 27 p.
boreal forest, channelization, groundwater, Krycklan catchment, liverworts, mosses, riparian buffers, riparian vegetation, river restoration, species richness, stream network, stream size, vascular plants
National Category
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-100217 (URN)978-91-7601-212-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2015-03-26, Björken, Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet, Skogsmarksgränd 901 83, Umeå, 10:00 (English)
Swedish Research Council Formas
Available from: 2015-03-05 Created: 2015-02-25 Last updated: 2015-03-09Bibliographically approved

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