Atlantic floodplain meadows: influence of hydrological gradients and management on sciomyzid (Diptera) assemblages
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- Maher, C., Gormally, M., Williams, C. et al. J Insect Conserv (2014) 18: 267. doi:10.1007/s10841-014-9630-z
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Maintaining biodiversity is central to maintaining ecosystem functionality of wetlands. Hydrology has the strongest influence on wetland biodiversity, second to which agriculture is the most influential factor. This study investigates the influence of hydrology and farming practices on the abundance, species richness and composition of dipteran communities on temperate Atlantic floodplain hay meadows. Insects were sampled by sweep-net across twenty-four vegetation zones for which hydrological variables were calculated by combining river level data with fine-scale topographical data. Plant communities were surveyed using relevés and land owners were interviewed to gather data on current and past management regimes. A total of twenty-two sciomyzid species were recorded; over one-third of the Irish fauna. Flood depth and duration were found to have the strongest influence on sciomyzids, syrphids and plants. Sciomyzid species richness and total abundance were both positively correlated with hydroperiod and flood depth while both plants and syrphids responded negatively to increases. The difference in response highlights the need to assess more than one taxonomic group, when assessing the impact of changing environmental variables on biodiversity. Whereas vegetation structure drives changes in sciomyzid indicator species, plant species richness and composition, past management regimes and current nutrient inputs do not appear to influence these species. Thus, while the maintenance of the hydrological heterogeneity and the diversity of mowing regimes is important in maintaining biodiversity, variation in nutrient inputs and previous management (at least within the range here investigated) is likely to be of lesser importance for Syrphidae and Sciomyzidae.