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Landscape-scale processes influence riparian plant composition along a regulated river

October 27, 2017

Hierarchical frameworks are useful constructs when exploring landscape- and local-scale factors affecting patterns of vegetation in riparian areas. In drylands, which have steep environmental gradients and high habitat heterogeneity, landscape-scale variables, such as climate, can change rapidly along a river's course, affecting the relative influence of environmental variables at different scales. To assess how landscape-scale factors change the structure of riparian vegetation, we measured riparian vegetation composition along the Colorado River through Grand Canyon, determined which factors best explain observed changes, identified how richness and functional diversity vary, and described the implications of our results for river management. Cluster analysis identified three divergent floristic groups that are distributed longitudinally along the river. These groups were distributed along gradients of elevation, temperature and seasonal precipitation, but were not associated with annual precipitation or local-scale factors. Species richness and functional diversity decreased as a function of distance downstream showing that changing landscape-scale factors result in changes to ecosystem characteristics. Species composition and distribution remain closely linked to seasonal precipitation and temperature. These patterns in floristic composition in a semiarid system inform management and provide insights into potential future changes as a result of shifts in climate and changes in flow management.

Publication Year 2018
Title Landscape-scale processes influence riparian plant composition along a regulated river
DOI 10.1016/j.jaridenv.2017.10.001
Authors Emily C. Palmquist, Barbara Ralston, David M. Merritt, Patrick B. Shafroth
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Arid Environments
Index ID 70192839
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Southwest Biological Science Center