Spatial patterns of water-deposited seeds control plant species richness and composition in riparian forest landscapes

Abstract

Context

Determining regional and local processes that govern the maintenance of biodiversity and assessing their relative importance remain major research challenges in landscape ecology. In riparian systems, propagule dispersal and disturbance are constrained by longitudinal and lateral water flows, but riparian forests in temperate human-dominated landscapes have received little attention so far.

Objectives

We investigated how the longitudinal position along the river course and the lateral position to the riverbed structure forest plant communities subjected to flooding.

Methods

We studied vegetation, soil seed bank, hydrochorous seed rain and environmental conditions along 23 transects perpendicular to the river in two forest floodplains in the North of France. We used generalized linear mixed models to assess the relative importance of longitudinal distance, relative elevation, and their interaction on both species richness in a given compartment and species turnover between compartments.

Results

Relative elevation to the riverbed was the main factor explaining species richness of vegetation and water seed deposit, but not of the seed bank. Vegetation was the most species-rich at low elevations, where the number of water-dispersed seeds and related species richness were maximal. The longitudinal position within the riparian forest had no effect on vegetation and seed bank richness. Dissimilarity between the seed bank and the seed rain increased with relative elevation.

Conclusion

Lateral much more than longitudinal movements of water create a strong gradient in seed rain intensity that structures plant communities. Flooding is important to species dispersal, hence to the conservation of species-rich plant communities within human-pressured landscapes.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Patrick Endels and Kathleen Vanderheyden for their contribution to this project, Eric van Beek for the help with the germination trials, Emilie Gallet-Moron for the GIS help. We are thankful to the two anonymous referees for their insightful comments. We also thank the French Office national des Forêts for the facilities during field work. This study was partly supported by a Hubert Curien Program “TOURNESOL” (EGIDE). Additional support was provided by the “Conseil régional de Picardie” via a mobility grant “Philéas Séjour”. This paper was written while E.A.C. held a PhD fellowship from the French “Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur”.

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Correspondence to Guillaume Decocq.

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Araujo Calçada, E., Lenoir, J., Plue, J. et al. Spatial patterns of water-deposited seeds control plant species richness and composition in riparian forest landscapes. Landscape Ecol 30, 2133–2146 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-015-0236-y

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Keywords

  • Biodiversity maintenance
  • Disturbance
  • Environmental gradients
  • Flooding
  • Hydrochory
  • Recruitment limitation
  • Seed dispersal
  • Soil seed bank
  • Temperate floodplain forest
  • Vascular plant diversity