Functional diversity in a large river floodplain: anticipating the response of native and alien macroinvertebrates to the restoration of hydrological connectivity

Authors

  • Amael Paillex,

    Corresponding author
    1. Institut F.A. Forel, Laboratoire d'Ecologie et de Biologie Aquatique, Université de Genève, Carouge, Switzerland
    • Aquatic Ecology Group, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
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  • Sylvain Dolédec,

    1. Laboratoire d'Ecologie des Hydrosystèmes Naturels et Anthropisés, CNRS, UMR 5023, Université Lyon1, Villeurbanne Cedex, France
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  • Emmanuel Castella,

    1. Institut F.A. Forel, Laboratoire d'Ecologie et de Biologie Aquatique, Université de Genève, Carouge, Switzerland
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  • Sylvie Mérigoux,

    1. Laboratoire d'Ecologie des Hydrosystèmes Naturels et Anthropisés, CNRS, UMR 5023, Université Lyon1, Villeurbanne Cedex, France
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  • David C. Aldridge

    1. Aquatic Ecology Group, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
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Correspondence author. E-mail: adp49@cam.ac.uk

Summary

  1. Rivers and floodplains are among the most threatened ecosystems. Hydroelectric power plants and embankments have reduced the hydrological connectivity between rivers and their floodplain channels, leading to loss of freshwater habitats and biological communities. To prevent and reverse such loss, numerous restoration programmes have aimed at rejuvenating the lateral hydrological connectivity between rivers and floodplain channels. Despite considerable global attention, we know remarkably little about the ecological benefits of floodplain restoration programmes.
  2. We analysed the functional diversity of different macroinvertebrate groups (natives and aliens) along a gradient of lateral hydrological connectivity on the Rhône river in France. We used 36 sampling sites to describe the functional diversity (Rao's quadratic entropy) before and after the enhancement of the lateral hydrological connectivity by restoration. The effects of restoration on functional diversity were tested for each macroinvertebrate group and at multiple spatial levels (alpha and beta).
  3. Before restoration, alpha functional diversity of the entire macroinvertebrate community peaked in sites with a high lateral connectivity. The contribution of the native groups to functional diversity was higher than that of the alien group. The latter was not constrained by high values of lateral hydrological connectivity and reached a maximum in highly connected sites.
  4. After restoration, within-site functional diversity (alpha FD) declined linearly following the enhancement of lateral hydrological connectivity. The restoration operations increased the contribution of the aliens to functional diversity and reduced the contribution of a group of native taxa. In addition, among-sites functional diversity (beta FD) was successfully enlarged by restoration.
  5. Synthesis and applications. The lateral hydrological connectivity (LHC) represents a key parameter for explaining the functional diversity (FD) of macroinvertebrates in a floodplain ecosystem. Our results demonstrate that restoration-induced changes to functional diversity can be predicted. Controversially, restoration-induced enhancement of lateral hydrological connectivity increased the functional diversity of the alien macroinvertebrates. However, these species contributed only to a small part of the total macroinvertebrate functional diversity. We recommend that restoration programmes diversify the levels of lateral hydrological connectivity among the channels to ensure an optimal functional diversity at the floodplain scale.

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