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Flood regimes alter the role of landform and topographic constraint on functional diversity of floodplain forests

December 28, 2022

Understanding patterns of species coexistence is a fundamental challenge in ecology. The physical environment is believed to play an important role, influencing patterns of dispersal and biotic interactions across space and time. Floodplain forest species are presumed to interact strongly with their environment, as evidenced by pronounced spatial variation in forest composition associated with flood-driven abiotic constraints. Questions of how, and to what degree, fine-scale heterogeneity interacts with broad-scale hydrogeomorphology to influence patterns of functional composition remain unresolved. We examined how functional diversity (i.e. richness and range of functional traits) and ecological strategies (i.e. functional trait combinations) of floodplain forest communities varied across regional and local gradients of flooding in a northern temperate region of the United States of America. We found functional diversity of woody overstory species varied across hydrogeomorphic settings and that different settings altered associations between functional diversity and both the relative elevation above and proximity to rivers. Ecological strategies shifted over local gradients of relative elevation and distance to channel with different magnitudes and directions depending on the broader hydrogeomorphic context. We found evidence that interactions among flood regimes and landform position impose different levels of functional constraint. These results indicate patterns of community assembly are not easily discerned from landform type or position alone, but rather from filtering that operates and interacts with biota over multiple spatial scales. Our results imply that it is important to characterize flood dynamics in ways that can be clearly linked to ecological processes and that treatment of floodplain landforms as transferable units across river-valley segments is problematic, even within a single basin.

Publication Year 2023
Title Flood regimes alter the role of landform and topographic constraint on functional diversity of floodplain forests
DOI 10.1111/ecog.06519
Authors Molly Van Appledorn, Matthew E. Baker
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecography
Index ID 70239302
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center