, Volume 598, Issue 1, pp 257–270 | Cite as

Biodiversity dynamics of freshwater wetland ecosystems affected by secondary salinisation and seasonal hydrology variation: a model-based study

  • Changhao JinEmail author
Primary research paper


Freshwater wetlands worldwide are under threat from secondary salinisation and climate change. Given that many freshwater wetlands naturally have highly variable hydrology, it is important to understand the combined effects of salinity and water regime on wetland biodiversity. Here a mathematical model has been developed to explore the biodiversity dynamics of freshwater wetland ecosystems affected by secondary salinisation and seasonal hydrology variation. The model shows that seasonal hydrological change can drive the wetland ecosystem into a stable oscillatory state of biodiversity, with the same period as the wetting and drying cycle. The initial condition of a wetland mediates the ecological response of the wetland ecosystem to salinity and seasonal variability. There are two manifestations of stability that occur in relation to wetland biodiversity: monostability and bistability. In model simulations, some wetland ecosystems may respond to the effects of seasonal change quickly, while others may do so more slowly. In ‘slow response’ wetlands, seasonal variability has a weak impact on the ecosystem properties of stability, resilience, sensitivity and the species richness–mean salinity relationship. In contrast, ‘fast response’ wetlands are seasonally controlled heavily. Seasonal variability can play a critical role in determining ecosystem properties. Changes in the strength of seasonality can induce the transition between monostability and bistability. Seasonal variability may also reduce wetland resilience, exacerbating the risk of secondary salinisation. On the other hand, seasonal variability may provide opportunities for the restoration of salinised wetlands by increasing their sensitivity to management actions and facilitating recovery processes. Model simulations show that the response of the stable biodiversity oscillation to changing mean salinity is dependent on seasonality strength (primarily for fast response wetlands) and other wetland conditions. Generally, there are two types of wetland responses to changes in mean salinity: type 1 wetlands exhibit a graded response of species richness (a surrogate for biodiversity), whereas a hysteretic response occurs in type 2 wetlands. Species diversity displays critical behaviour: regime shifts in diversity occur at the thresholds of mean salinity, strength of seasonality or initial species diversity. The predictions are consistent with previously-published field observations in salinised freshwater wetlands.


Species richness Salinity Seasonality Wetlands Climate change Alternative stable states 



I would like to thank Jenny Davis and Sabine Schreiber for discussions that stimulated this study. I am grateful for helpful discussions and comments by Michael Smith, Keely Ough, Belinda Cant, Michele Kohout, Simon Nicol, Charles Todd and Derek Turnbull. The manuscript was improved by comments from two anonymous reviewers. This research was supported by the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality (Project number 202167).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental ResearchHeidelbergAustralia

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