Plant Ecology

, Volume 194, Issue 1, pp 17–36

Community and species responses to water level fluctuations with reference to soil layers in different habitats of mid-boreal mire complexes

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s11258-007-9271-3

Cite this article as:
Laitinen, J., Rehell, S. & Oksanen, J. Plant Ecol (2008) 194: 17. doi:10.1007/s11258-007-9271-3


The present paper discusses water level fluctuations in different parts of boreal mire complexes (eleven localities), mainly aapa mire complexes, on the basis of measurements performed by means of shallow observation wells and a few deeper observation tubes (piezometers) in the coastal half of the southern aapa mire zone in Finland. The sites represented intact vegetation from 12 different habitat types (communities), which were divided a priori into habitats with a stable surface moisture status (stable habitats) and into habitats with an unstable surface moisture status (unstable habitats). In stable habitats water level fluctuations took place according to the acrotelm–catotelm model, but the unstable habitats clearly deviated from the general pattern: water level fluctuations in them were not at all concentrated to the surficial, porous peat layer. Direct gradient analysis was used for arranging the communities along the water level fluctuation gradient. Variability of the water table, using 80% amplitude of water table residence, was used for the arrangement. The gradient was split into three groups: (1) habitats with a slightly fluctuating water table, (2) habitats with a considerably fluctuating water table and (3) habitats with an extremely fluctuating water table. The last group nearly corresponded to aro wetlands, and represented a very special habitat type. Indirect gradient analysis (NMDS ordination) also revealed the water level fluctuation gradient along with the gradient of traditional water level categories. According to the results of direct and indirect gradient analysis, the water level fluctuation seems to be an independent and important vegetation gradient. In peatlands, it occurs alongside with the traditional gradient of water level categories reflecting the mean water table. The responses of species to the range of water level fluctuations seem to reflect their tolerance to disturbances and evidently to seasonal drought. Most Sphagnum species are absent or in poor condition in habitats with extremely fluctuating water table. Vascular plant species that experienced most extreme water level fluctuations (Carex nigra, Juncus filiformis) have earlier been regarded as disturbance indicators. In addition, the difference between the piezometric water level and simultaneously measured water table depth reached the highest values within the habitats of those species (i.e., within Polytrichum commune aro wetlands) showing the downward direction of water movement in sandy mineral soil.


aapa mires Acrotelm–catotelm model Aro wetlands Gradient analysis Wetland ecology Wetland hydrology 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biology/BotanyUniversity of OuluOuluFinland
  2. 2.Metsähallitus, Natural Heritage Services Ostrobothnia–KainuuOuluFinland

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