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Bryophyte communities of Mediterranean Europe: a first approach to model their potential distribution in highly seasonal rivers

Abstract

Mediterranean watercourses are among the most threatened ecosystems worldwide, being increasingly important to understand environmental drivers of biotic assemblages. Our aim was to provide a comprehensive picture of bryophyte communities in Mediterranean rivers and to determine the environmental factors that influence their distribution. We used floristic data collected for inter-calibration purposes under the European Water Framework Directive and River Habitat Survey, from 474 river reaches in six countries of the European Mediterranean basin. We analysed data through classification, ordination and environmental niche modelling techniques, and classified taxa according to biogeographic and aquatic habitat frameworks developed specifically for bryophytes. These analyses revealed four types of communities influenced by spatio-temporal precipitation patterns, altitude and water chemistry factors, most notably calcium and manganese. Community types are compositionally differentiated, although they share some core taxa and show an overall tendency to have several temperate and exclusively aquatic taxa despite the intermittent nature of water flow in highly seasonal Mediterranean rivers. The modelling approach can be improved at a more local scale when more bryological data and higher-resolution environmental information become available. Given future scenarios of climate change and human alteration of hydrological regimes, broader scales studies are needed to monitor shifts in bryophyte communities.

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Acknowledgments

We dedicate this article to Nigel Holmes, author and colleague and an authority on river plants and the biggest influence on river conservation and restoration in the UK. By demonstrating the importance of macrophytes as ecological indicators, he transformed the way rivers were assessed both in Britain and across other parts of Europe. He will be sorely missed and fondly remembered by his many colleagues and friends for his inspiration, boundless energy, compassion, kindness, humour and youthful enthusiasm. He was in every sense a colossus who shaped modern-day river management. We thank Dr. Luoma Samrit from the Geological survey of Finland who kindly provided us geochemical data from the Geochemical Atlas of Europe. CV is funded by the Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT) under a Postdoctoral fellowship (SFRH/BPD/63741/2009) co-funded by the Programa Operacional Ciência e Inovação—2010 and Fundo Social Europeu. We are also in debt to the institutions providing financial support, monitoring and environmental data, namely the INAG IP/Agência Portuguesa do Ambiente IP (Portugal), IRSTEA (France), ENEA Saluggia Research Center (Italy), Water Development Department (Cyprus), University of Ljubljana and Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning of the Republic of Slovenia (Slovenia), University of Patras and “Karatheodoris” research project (Greece), Catalan Water Agency, Spanish Ministry of Environment and Conferederación Hidrográfica del Ebro (Spain).

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Guest editors: M. T. O’Hare, F. C. Aguiar, E. S. Bakker & K. A. Wood / Plants in Aquatic Systems – a 21st Century Perspective

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Vieira, C., Aguiar, F.C., Portela, A. et al. Bryophyte communities of Mediterranean Europe: a first approach to model their potential distribution in highly seasonal rivers. Hydrobiologia 812, 27–43 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-016-2743-5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-016-2743-5

Keywords

  • Mediterranean bryophytes
  • Microhabitat
  • Environmental variables
  • Aquaticity
  • Biogeography