Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 41, Issue 7, pp 2079–2091 | Cite as

Wetland Plant Diversity in a Coastal Nature Reserve in Italy: Relationships with Salinization and Eutrophication and Implications for Nature Conservation

  • Renato Gerdol
  • Lisa Brancaleoni
  • Lorenzo Lastrucci
  • Giovanni Nobili
  • Mauro Pellizzari
  • Michele Ravaglioli
  • Daniele Viciani


Wetlands are important centers of biodiversity. Coastal wetlands are subject to anthropogenic threats that can lead to biodiversity loss and consequent negative effects on nature conservation. We investigated relationships between wetland vegetation and habitat conditions in a coastal Nature Reserve in Northern Italy that has undergone seawater intrusion and eutrophication for several decades. The wetland vegetation in the Nature Reserve consisted of nine communities of hygrophytic and helophytic vegetation and five communities of waterplant vegetation. The hygrophytic and helophytic communities were arranged according to a salinity gradient, from salt-free habitats to strongly saline habitats. The saline habitats had high nutrient levels, due to the influx of nitrate-rich saltwater from an adjacent lagoon. The waterplant communities were all typical of freshwater habitats. Water-table depth and concentration of dissolved nutrients in the water were the main factors structuring waterplant vegetation. The main driver of future changes in the wetland vegetation of the Nature Reserve is the ongoing increase in salinity levels which may enhance expansion of halophilic species and communities, thus outcompeting locally rare freshwater species. If nutrient, especially nitrate, load further increases in the next future, this may exert negative effects on wetland species and communities preferring nutrient-poor habitats.


Aquatic plants Biodiversity Nitrate Nutrient load Saline wedge Vegetation 



Prof. Giuseppe Castaldelli provided useful data and comments on nitrate loads. Dr. Roberta Marchesini did the chemical analyses. Mrs. Lorella Dell’Olmo and Dr. Roberta Marchesini assisted in drawing the maps. Mr. Mauro Menghini helped during the field work. All are kindly acknowledged. We wish to thank two anonymous reviewers for constructive criticism on a previous version of the paper. This study was partly financed by a Grant of Ferrara University to RG.

Supplementary material

12237_2018_396_MOESM1_ESM.docx (87 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 87 kb)


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Life Sciences and BiotechnologyUniversity of FerraraFerraraItaly
  2. 2.Botanical GardenUniversity of FerraraFerraraItaly
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of FlorenceFlorenceItaly
  4. 4.Carabinieri per la Biodiversità di Punta MarinaPunta MarinaItaly
  5. 5.Istituto Comprensivo “Bentivoglio”Poggio RenaticoItaly

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