Patterns of wetland plant diversity along estuarine stress gradients of the Elbe (Germany) and Connecticut (USA) Rivers

  • Conneticut estuary
  • Elbe estuary
  • environmental stress gradient
  • estuarine marshes
  • flooding gradient
  • intercontinental study
  • plant species diversity
  • salinity gradient
  • vegetation zonation
  • Background: Estuaries are characterised by salinity gradients and regular flooding events. These environmental factors form stress gradients, along which species composition changes.

    Aims: Analyse and compare patterns of plant species diversity along the estuarine salinity and flooding gradients of the Elbe and Connecticut Rivers.

    Methods: Vegetation was sampled at three elevations (low, mid, high) in five sites of each marsh type (fresh, brackish, salt) in both estuaries. Patterns of species density (SD) and evenness (E) along the gradients were analysed and compared between the two estuaries with three-factor ANOVAs.

    Results: The regional species pool was 33% higher for the Connecticut than for the Elbe. SD of fresh marshes (19 ± 2.2) was more than twice in the Connecticut than in the Elbe. We found an overall increase in SD from low to high elevation and from salt to freshwater marshes in both estuaries. However, SD and E were strongly depressed at intermediate elevations in the Elbe fresh and brackish marshes.

    Conclusions: Although diversity patterns in the two estuaries show overall similarities, patterns of SD and E differ, when particular elevational zones and marsh types are compared. We hypothesise this to be due to evolutionary and historical influences on the regional species pools, shaping the impact of local biotic and abiotic processes.
  • info:eu-repo/semantics/closedAccess
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