Distribution of aquatic plants in the Northern Vosges rivers: implications for biomonitoring and conservation



  • 1.The continual confusion over the definition of the term ‘trophic status’ has led to ambiguous demonstrations of the influence of alkalinity versus inorganic N and P on aquatic plant distribution.
  • 2.Data from the Northern Vosges rivers (sandstone geology) were reinvestigated to test whether it was possible to separate the effect of (i) spatial isolation from surface water chemistry, and (ii) alkalinity from inorganic N and P on aquatic macrophyte distribution.
  • 3.Alkalinity and pH exerted the strongest influence on plant distribution, soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) and pCO2 being subordinate. The effect of spatial isolation between catchments was not significant, which may indicate that aquatic plants dispersed well over the area. The effect of longitudinal connectivity on species distribution was strong, although largely confounded by the effects of water chemistry and possibly other physical factors not recorded. The partial effect of SRP (after removing the effect of pH or alkalinity) was still significant. However this was not the case for NH4.
  • 4.The floristic composition was more likely to indicate the role played by alkalinity than inorganic P, with inorganic N being further subordinate. However, the causality of the significant relationships needs to be investigated further. This study questioned the validity of current macrophyte biomonitoring tools striving to indicate the concentrations of inorganic N and P.
  • 5.More work is needed to quantify the role of connected and isolated aquatic habitats in the region, in order to understand how to maintain the species pool and to ensure that recolonization rates compensate for the losses due to disturbances. It is not clear how the vegetation would respond to inorganic P enrichment (or control), based on the individual species response observed here, and river P uptake studies from other rivers. Future monitoring should also include measurements of physical degradation.

Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.