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Trends in aquatic macrophyte species turnover in Northern Ireland — which factors determine the spatial distribution of local species turnover?


Einar Heegaard, Bjerknes Centre of Climate Research, Allégaten 55, 5007 Bergen, Norway. E-mail:


Aim  The study examined qualitative predictions of ecological theories in relation to the spatial distribution of species turnover of aquatic macrophytes, through the following parameters: (1) distance between lakes (2) chemical conditions of the lakes (3) chemical differences between the lakes, and (4) the lake size.

Location  562 lakes dispersed throughout Northern Ireland were analysed.

Methods  To obtain species turnover estimates independent of richness, the average distance between focal lakes and their five nearest neighbours in ordination space (DCA) was standardized by the species richness in a Generalized Additive Model (GAM). The relationships between species turnover and ecological (chemical condition, chemical difference, distance between lakes, and lake-size) and geographical parameters (latitude, longitude, and altitude) were analysed using GAM.

Results  The results indicate that the pattern in species turnover is a combination of the chemical conditions and the distance between the lakes, including the interaction term. The effects of chemical heterogeneity and lake size parameters were both positive but weak. In general, increased distance and decreased ionic concentration contribute to increased turnover. The influence of distance on species turnover is strongest at low and high altitude, and at mid-elevation the species turnover is mainly driven by the chemical conditions. Towards the north there is an increasing influence of distance, whereas in the south the chemical conditions have their strongest influence.

Conclusions  There is a need for components from several established ecological theories to explain the spatial trends in species turnover within Northern Ireland. Central theories in this particular study are the population/metapopulation dynamics, the continuum concept, and the species-pool concept.