Bartłomiej Surmacz with co-authors published a paper in the Journal of Vegetation Science. The study concerns river biodiversity.
Rivers are dynamic ecosystems and have always captivated the curiosity of ecologists. The River Continuum Concept (RCC) proposes that along rivers, from upstream to downstream, organisms change gradually, creating a biodiversity peak in mid-reaches. While this concept was initially designed for stream macroinvertebrates, this recent study delves into whether this pattern extends to riparian plant communities.
Photo: Bartłomiej Surmacz. Field snapshot of one of the study sites.
Southeastern Poland is home to some unaltered river networks with well-preserved riparian forests. These forests are the focus of the research. The authors studied the cover of plant species across two river networks. They calculated taxonomic and functional diversity indices and found that functional richness and divergence as well as taxonomic diversity displayed unimodal patterns, in line with the predictions of RCC. As abiotic factors shifted longitudinally, so did the functional composition of plant communities, creating patterns akin to theoretical predictions. While the RCC has faced scrutiny for oversimplification, this study breathes new life into its applicability. Also, the results hold practical significance. Conservation efforts can draw from this research to preserve and restore riparian ecosystems, especially in the often-overlooked small headwater streams.
Check out the full paper here (open access).