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Stream salinization is associated with reduced taxonomic, but not functional diversity in a riparian plant community



Abstract  Dryland salinity presents an overwhelming threat to terrestrial and aquatic habitats in Australia, and yet there remains very little empirical evidence of the impacts of secondary salinization on the biodiversity of riparian communities. Here we describe the response of a riparian plant community to stream and soil salinization, 25 years after the experimental clearing of a catchment in south-western Australia. Riparian plant species diversity was inversely related to soil salinity, and plant species composition was significantly altered by increased soil salinity. Despite the evidence for an impact of salinization on the taxonomic diversity and composition of the riparian plant community, there was little evidence for any effect of salinization on functional group diversity, or on ecological functioning, as measured by the percentage of above-ground plant cover.