Watershed land use types as drivers of freshwater phytoplankton structure
The potential importance of watershed land use types, lake/watershed morphometry/topography and geographic distance as drivers of phytoplankton community composition was evaluated by using data collected from 18 freshwaters (lakes and reservoirs) distributed around Greece. In all freshwaters, phytoplankton species composition showed a strong correlation with the composition of land uses within their watersheds but no correlation with morphometry/topography and geographic distance. Cyanobacteria were found to be associated with artificial and agricultural land use types. Chrysophytes were closely associated to forested areas whereas euglenophytes to industrial, commercial, and transport units. Phytoplankton total biomass was significantly higher in freshwaters with a cover of agricultural and artificial land use >30% in their watersheds. This rather low threshold of agricultural and artificial land use cover might be indicative of the higher sensitivity of Mediterranean freshwaters to eutrophication process. Analysis performed separately for lakes and reservoirs revealed some diverse patterns with lake morphometric/topographic variables significantly affecting similarity in species occurrence. The results demonstrate that land use types reflecting anthropogenic pressures could act as critical drivers explaining phytoplankton structure. Our research suggests that Mediterranean freshwaters could be highly sensitive to land use types within their watersheds, thus landscape structure and configuration should be taken into account toward effective conservation and management plans.
KeywordsLand use types Drivers Freshwater phytoplankton Lakes and reservoirs Mediterranean
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