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Disturbances as a structuring factor of plant palatability in aquatic communities

Elger, A.F. and Bornette, G. and Barrat-Segretain, M-H. and Amoros, C. (2004) Disturbances as a structuring factor of plant palatability in aquatic communities. Ecology, 85, 304-311. ISSN 0012-9658.

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Plant palatability plays an important part in the fitness of species and is therefore regarded as a key functional trait. The aim of this study was to relate the palatability of aquatic macrophytes to their distribution in riverine wetlands differing in their exposure to spate flood disturbances. Thirty-three former channels of the Rhône River Basin (eastern France) were characterized in terms of flood-disturbance level. Nutrient richness was also measured to eliminate its potential confounding effect. The coverage of 40 macrophyte species was recorded in these wetlands, and their palatability was assessed through laboratory feeding trials using a generalist consumer, the pond snail Lymnaea stagnalis. The consumption rate of L. stagnalis ranged from 3.9 mg·g-1·d-1 (for Hottonia palustris) to 137.9 mg·g-1·d-1 (for Sagittaria sagittifolia) and was used as a palatability index. Plant palatability was unrelated to the nutrient richness of sites but was positively correlated with their flood-disturbance level. However, the strength of this correlation decreased as nutrient richness increased. These results suggest that spate floods promote functional diversity in riverine wetlands, allowing the persistence of the most palatable plant species otherwise eliminated by herbivores, especially in nutrient-poor habitats. [KEYWORDS: disturbance; diversity, functional; fluvial dynamics; freshwater macrophytes; herbivory; Lymnaea stagnalis; nutrient richness; plant palatability; riverine wetlands; spate floods]

Item Type:Article
Institutes:Nederlands Instituut voor Ecologie (NIOO)
ID Code:11512
Deposited On:23 Nov 2011 01:00
Last Modified:14 Oct 2013 12:44

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