Quantifying the Hydroregime of a Temporary Pool Habitat: A Modelling Approach for Ephemeral Rock Pools in SE Botswana
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Ecological and evolutionary processes in temporary rock pools operate within constraints imposed by their hydrologic regimes. These shallow pools flood when seasonal rains accumulate on impermeable substrates. Despite the ecological importance of hydrologic conditions for these ecosystems, we typically lack tools and empirical data required to understand the implications of hydrologic variability and climate change for biotic populations and communities in these habitats. In this study, we developed a hydrologic model to simulate rock pool hydrologic regimes based on rainfall, evapotranspiration, and basin geometry. The model was used to investigate long-term patterns of seasonal and inter-annual variation in hydroregime. In addition, hydrologic conditions associated with potential climate change scenarios were simulated and evaluated with respect to the biological requirements of the anostracan Branchipodopsis wolfi. The model’s output for daily inundation matched with field observations with an overall accuracy of 85% and correctly estimated complete hydroperiods with an overall accuracy of 70%. Simulations indicate large variation in individual hydroperiods (76–115%) as well as in the number of hydroperiods per year (19–23%). Furthermore, this study suggests that climate change may significantly alter the rock pool hydroregime. These findings confirm the hydrologic sensitivity of these ephemeral habitats to precipitation patterns, and their potential sensitivity to future climate change. Modelling indicates that the suitability of average inundation conditions for B. wolfi deteriorates significantly under future climate predictions. High levels of spatial and temporal variation in hydrologic conditions are dominant features of these habitats and an essential consideration for understanding population and community-level ecological processes.
KeywordsAnostraca climate change hydrological model hydroperiod hydroregime characterization hydroregime responsiveness hydroregime suitability hydroregime variation predictability temporary pools
A. Hulsmans and B. Vanschoenwinkel contributed equally to the present article. We thank L. De Meester and two anonymous reviewers for constructive comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. We are grateful to J. Vanoverbeke and M. Stevens for their help with formulating the Excel functions. A. Hulsmans is a research fellow with the K.U. Leuven Research Fund (Project OT/00/14, “Evolutionary implications of resting egg banks in branchiopods”). B. Vanschoenwinkel is a research fellow with the Fund for Scientific Research—Flanders (Belgium) (F.W.O). We acknowledge the Fund for Scientific Research-Flanders (Project G.0118.03) for supporting the various field trips to Botswana.
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