Sediment type rules the response of aquatic plant communities to dewatering in wetlands

Abstract : QuestionsThe effect of dewatering on aquatic plant communities may vary with sediment properties, such as particle size and organic matter content, as both control water retention in the sediment during dewatering. No study has tested how sediment type affects the short-term response of plant communities to dewatering. We hypothesized that for the same dewatering event: (1) organic, silt and coarse sediments rank along a gradient of water deficit, with which community resistance and resilience decrease; (2) species survival during the event depend on their known ecological affinity for water; and (3) a peak in species richness associated with an intermediate water deficit occurs in silty habitats. LocationRiverine wetlands in the floodplain of the Ain River, France. MethodsEighteen sampling units were defined, set over three sediment types: gravel-dominated coarse sediment, silt and organic matter-dominated sediment. For each sediment type, three sampling units were permanently aquatic, and three sampling units underwent summer dewatering. A survey of species cover was conducted in each sampling unit at four times: before summer dewatering, at the beginning of the event, at the end of the event and 2months after rewetting. Community resistance and resilience were assessed, as were changes over time in the proportions of species according their water affinity (hydrophytes, amphiphytes and helophytes, documented from the floras), and the effect of dewatering on species renewal and richness. ResultsThe sediment type affected aquatic plant community resistance and resilience, with increasing disturbance intensity for silty, followed by coarse compared with organic sediment. Organic sediment retained water efficiently during dewatering, supporting high community resistance, with the maintenance of amphiphytes and more tolerant hydrophytes. On silty sediment, disturbance was sufficiently high to cause the disappearance of hydrophyte vegetative parts, but propagules rapidly sprouted after rewetting, suggesting their preservation in the sediment and enabling good community resilience. On coarse sediment, a decrease in resident amphiphyte abundance, together with helophyte colonization and maintenance after rewetting were observed. Coarse sediment is not favourable to propagule survival, explaining the low community resilience. Contrary to our hypothesis, a linear positive relationship between disturbance intensity and species richness was observed after dewatering. ConclusionThe present study demonstrates that a simple description of sediment type allows prediction of dewatering impact on aquatic plant communities: organic, silt and coarse sediments were ranked along a gradient of water deficit, along which resistance and resilience decreased.
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Submitted on : Friday, September 1, 2017 - 12:45:39 PM
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Mélissa de Wilde, Sara Puijalon, Gudrun Bornette. Sediment type rules the response of aquatic plant communities to dewatering in wetlands. Journal of Vegetation Science, Wiley, 2017, 28 (1), pp.172-183. ⟨10.1111/jvs.12473⟩. ⟨hal-01580344⟩

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