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Ecology. 2007 Jan;88(1):131-9.

The importance of groundwater discharge for plant species number in riparian zones.

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  • 1Landscape Ecology Group, Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Umeå University, SE-901 87 Umeå, Sweden. roland.jansson@emg.umu.se

Abstract

Riparian zones are hotspots of plant species richness in temperate and boreal biomes. The phenomenon is believed to be caused primarily by river-related processes, and upland influences on riparian zones have received relatively little attention. We investigated the importance of discharge of groundwater derived from uplands on riparian patterns in vascular plant species composition. We found that groundwater discharge areas in riparian zones were 36-209% more species rich than non-discharge areas, depending on spatial scale (1-50 m wide transects from annual high-water levels to summer low-water levels) and river (one free-flowing and one regulated). Higher nitrogen availability and less drought stress during low river stages are suggested as the major causes for the higher species diversity in discharge areas. Riparian zones lacking groundwater discharge lost more species following water-level regulation than did discharge areas. This indicates that groundwater discharge areas are more resistant to regulation because both individual plants and plant populations may grow larger in discharge areas. These results demonstrate that riparian zones are controlled by water and nutrient input from upland parts of catchments in ways that have been overlooked despite more than three decades of research into linkages between stream ecosystems and their valleys.

PMID:
17489461
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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