Plant dispersal in a lowland stream in relation to occurrence and three specific life-history traits of the species in the species pool

Authors

  • Ger Boedeltje,

    Corresponding author
    1. Community and Conservation Ecology Group, University of Groningen, PO Box 14, 9750 AA Haren, the Netherlands,
    2. Research Group Aquatic Ecology and Environmental Biology, Department of Ecology, University of Nijmegen, Toernooiveld 1, 6525 ED Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and
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  • Jan P. Bakker,

    1. Community and Conservation Ecology Group, University of Groningen, PO Box 14, 9750 AA Haren, the Netherlands,
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  • Renée M. Bekker,

    1. Community and Conservation Ecology Group, University of Groningen, PO Box 14, 9750 AA Haren, the Netherlands,
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  • Jan M. Van Groenendael,

    1. Research Group Aquatic Ecology and Environmental Biology, Department of Ecology, University of Nijmegen, Toernooiveld 1, 6525 ED Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and
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  • Martin Soesbergen

    1. Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, Road and Hydraulic Engineering Division, PO Box 5044, 2600 GA Delft, the Netherlands
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Ger Boedeltje, Community and Conservation Ecology Group, University of Groningen, PO Box 14, 9750 AA Haren, the Netherlands (tel. + 31 573 252094; fax + 31 573 259094; e-mail ger.boedeltje@sci.kun.nl).

Summary

  • 1The diversity and abundance of viable diaspores trapped at the downstream end of a 15-km lowland stream were quantified and related to five potentially predicting variables: species’ occurrence in the species pool, distance to the nearest stand and the life-history traits seed buoyancy, seed production and plant height.
  • 2From 126 samples, 106 614 individuals of vascular plants developed, 95.8% from vegetative diaspores and 4.2% from seeds. Among these plants, three free-floating, 12 submerged, 22 emergent (aquatic) and 70 riparian (semi-aquatic and terrestrial) species were recorded, respectively, accounting for 24.3%, 71.9%, 1.2% and 2.6% of the total number of viable diaspores trapped.
  • 3Of the free-floating, submerged and emergent species, 100%, 98.9% and 23.7% of the diaspores were vegetative, respectively, whereas it was 2.9% for riparian species.
  • 4Diaspores of 79% of the total number of aquatic species and 40% of riparian species observed in the established vegetation were trapped. Minimal dispersal distances ranged from 0 to 6 km.
  • 5Multiple regression analysis conducted for submerged species, showed that 71% of the variation in the diaspore pool could be predicted by occurrence of species in the vegetation. For emergent species, seed production and occurrence of species explained 54% of the variation, seed production being most important. Mean seed buoyancy of emergent species was higher than that of the other groups. For riparian species, seed production, occurrence and buoyancy explained 48% of the variation in the diaspore pool. Seed production per plant was the most important variable. Linear regression revealed a negative relationship between distance and abundance of the diaspore pool for submerged and riparian species.
  • 6We conclude that the occurrence of species in the species pool is a significant predictor for the dispersal of free-floating and submerged aquatics that rely on vegetative propagation. Seed production and buoyancy are of additional importance with regard to emergent aquatics. Riparian species with a limited terrestrial dispersal capacity may largely extend their range by hydrochory. That is, if they produce large amounts of (small) seeds and provided that these can reach the water body. Buoyancy and high frequency and abundance in the established vegetation promote this dispersal capacity as well.

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