, Volume 97, Issue 2, pp 161–172 | Cite as

Human impact on the ecological performance of Potamogeton species in northwestern Germany

  • G. Wiegleb
  • H. Brux
  • W. Herr


The changes in habitat quality of lowland rivers in Lower Saxony (Germany) during the past 40 years are outlined. Almost all chemical, physical, and morphological parameters have changed, resulting in most cases in an enhanced potential productivity, accompanied by a complex disturbance regime. Historical reconstruction of the change in river vegetation is presented to compare the frequency of macrophyte species 40 years ago with the situation of today. For a total of 289 sampling sites, the floristic change was exactly reconstructed. Nearly all species show a decline in frequency. This trend is also recognizable in Potamogeton, with the exception of two narrow-leaved species.

An attempt is made to explain both decline and maintenance in terms of life history characters (vital attributes) allowing the species to react to the changing habitat conditions. The successful species are characterized by certain life history characteristics which enable them to survive under the current disturbance regime. Most important aspects of life history are the ability to reproduce by means of turions and other fragments, a long-lived, deep-rooting rhizome system, phenotypic plasticity of above-ground parts, synchronous shoot polymorphism, and the potential to regenerate quickly from remaining buds after disturbance. The decline of formerly frequent species can be attributed mainly to the lack of certain key characters; however, physiological characters also may be important. The extirpation of some rare species could also be caused by random fluctuations in small populations. The general importance of population ecological research, particularly demography, life history theory, and the modelling of clonal populations in conservation ecology is stressed.


Floristic change Habitat quality Life history Lowland rivers Macrophytes Potamogeton 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. Wiegleb
    • 1
  • H. Brux
    • 2
  • W. Herr
    • 2
  1. 1.Fachbereich 7 BiologieUniversity of OldenburgOldenburgGermany
  2. 2.IBL (Institute of Applied Biology, Landscape Ecology, and Landscape Planning)OldenburgGermany

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