Riparian vegetation research in Mediterranean-climate regions: common patterns, ecological processes, and considerations for management
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- Stella, J.C., Rodríguez-González, P.M., Dufour, S. et al. Hydrobiologia (2013) 719: 291. doi:10.1007/s10750-012-1304-9
Riparian corridors in Mediterranean-climate regions (med-regions) are resource-rich habitats within water-limited, larger landscapes. However, little is known about how their plant communities compare functionally and compositionally across med-regions. In recent decades, research on these ecosystems has expanded in both geographic scope and disciplinary depth. We reviewed 286 riparian-vegetation studies across the five med-regions, and identified common themes, including: (1) high levels of plant biodiversity, structural complexity, and cross-region species introductions; (2) strong physical controls on plant demographics and community structure; and (3) intensive human impacts. European and Californian ecosystems were the most represented among the studies reviewed, but Australia, South Africa, and Chile had the greatest proportional increases in articles published since 2000. All med-regions support distinct riparian flora, although many genera have invaded across regions. Plant species in all regions are adapted to multiple abiotic stressors, including dynamic flooding and sediment regimes, seasonal water shortage, and fire. The most severe human impacts are from land-use conversion to agriculture, streamflow regulation, nutrient enrichment, and climate change. Current knowledge gaps and subjects for future research include cumulative impacts to small, ephemeral streams and large, regulated rivers, as well as understudied ecosystems in North Africa, the western Mediterranean basin, and Chile.