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Water temperature and acidity regime shape dominance and beta-diversity patterns in the plant communities of springs

  • Author(s): Schweiger, Andreas H.
  • Beierkuhnlein, Carl
  • et al.
Abstract

The processes underlying species’ dominance patterns and community composition are insufficiently investigated for springs, yet these systems, which are believed to be very stable environments, represent an important interface between aquatic and terrestrial habitats contributing significantly to local and regional diversity. We studied the dominance patterns and plant community composition of 238 springs in Central Europe. According to the conventional ecological belief we hypothesized (1) a positive relationship between local abundance and regional distribution of spring plant species, as well as between species commonness and species’ realized breadth and (2) the occurrence of oligarchic species similar to other stable environments like tropical forests. Based on previous studies on this springs, we furthermore hypothesized (3) that water pH—essentially a proxy for nutrient availability—is the major driver of spatial compositional dissimilarity, i.e. beta-diversity. We tested these three hypotheses by using species commonness estimates, realized niche space and generalized dissimilarity modelling based on hydrochemistry. In line with conventional wisdom, we report a positive relationship between local abundance, species commonness and regional distribution for the majority of the species. In contradiction to other systems, we found both specialist and generalist species to be locally dominant and regionally widespread, thus common, while species with intermediate niche breadth showed the lowest commonness values. However, we detected three oligarchic species, exceeding all other species in local abundance and regional distribution, which did not follow these relationships. Both dominance relations (oligarchy) and community composition were mainly driven by water temperature and concentration of elements related to acidity regime (Al, Cd, Ca and Mg), although much of the variation in both remained unexplained. Thus, further research should focus on biotic interactions, which are likely to be important drivers of plant community composition in springs.

 

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