Floodplains are characterized by high spatial and temporal heterogeneity. Despite low active mobility, Central European floodplain gastropod communities show a high species diversity. They are supposed to have developed a large range of resistance and/or resilience strategies to survive in the highly variable and frequently disturbed floodplain habitats.
Relating gastropod diversity and species traits to hydrological conditions, we tested how different groundwater and flood regimes affect gastropod diversity and identified the main species traits favouring their survival in highly dynamic floodplain grasslands.
Species richness, species diversity and functional diversity peaked at intermediate flood disturbance and moisture levels. Harsher environmental conditions in either dryer or frequently flooded habitats restricted the gastropod communities to a few specialized species.
Morphological and life-history traits showed significant variations along the hydrological gradient. Shell character and mode of reproduction proved to be important functional determinants for gastropod community composition. Species with strongly calcified shells, which limit the risk of injuries in case of dislodgment, were more often found in flood prone sites. Uniparental reproduction dominated in the driest as well as in highly flood-disturbed habitats, providing reproductive assurance where harsh environmental conditions may reduce the number of potential mates.
Intermediate disturbance and moisture levels favoured local gastropod diversity whereas dryer or highly flood-disturbed habitats sheltered specialized species. Therefore, the maintenance of areas with different disturbance and moisture levels is of major importance in favouring taxonomical and functional mollusc diversity across the whole floodplain. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.