, Volume 553, Issue 1, pp 143-152

Community Structure of In-Stream Bryophytes in English and Welsh Rivers

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Abstract

Information on the distribution of bryophytes in mainland British rivers was collected as part of the Joint Nature Conservancy Council (JNCC) survey of in-stream macrophyte distribution between 1978 and 1997. A sub-set of sites (1604) containing the 50 most common bryophytes was analysed. The commonest of these 50 species were Fontinalis antipyretica and Rhynchostegium riparioides. The majority of species encountered are not considered to be truly aquatic. Detrended Correspondence Analysis of community structure revealed a continuum of variation in assemblages across sites rather than distinct groupings of bryophytes. Canonical Correspondence Analysis was used to analyse a sub-set of sites (625) for which water chemistry were available to test the influence of environmental variables on the distribution of bryophytes. The analysis suggested the strongest environmental gradient was the transition from lowland systems on chalk geology to steeply sloping, high altitude systems with resistant geology. Mapping CCA axis 1 scores on to a map of England and Wales suggested a geographic trend in bryophyte species distribution with community structure undergoing a transition from the upland regions and the western seaboard to the south east of England. Stepwise regression analysis confirmed the importance of the upland lowland trend, showing that substrate size, altitude of source, distance to source and altitude were important predictors of species richness (p < 0.0001, adjusted R 2 = 0.30).