Lake and catchment-scale determinants of aquatic vegetation across almost 1,000 lakes and the contrasts between lake types


Sun J, Hunter PD, Tyler AN & Willby NJ (2019) Lake and catchment-scale determinants of aquatic vegetation across almost 1,000 lakes and the contrasts between lake types. Journal of Biogeography, 46 (5), pp. 1066-1082.

Aim The factors controlling macrophyte (aquatic plant) composition are complex, recent research having shown that the well-studied effects of lake environmental factors (the so-called “environmental filter”) can be constrained by hydrological and landscape factors. We investigated the factors determining macrophyte composition in lakes over water body and catchment- scales and the transferability of this pattern across lake types. Location Almost 1000 lakes distributed across Britain. Taxon Lake macrophytes Methods Lakes were partitioned into five types based on subdivision of alkalinity and elevation gradients. Data from botanical surveys were used to compare the spatial turnover and nestedness components of beta diversity between lake types. The relative importance of lake environment (based on local physicochemical data), hydrology (e.g. lake and stream density), landscape (e.g. fragmentation indices, land cover) and spatial autocorrelation in explaining variation in macrophyte composition were derived from variance partitioning. Results Species composition showed strong spatial structuring, suggestive of overland dispersal, enhanced by spatially-correlated abiotic factors such as alkalinity and elevation. Catchment-scale factors (e.g. land use, connectivity) promoted the establishment of different communities (more or less diverse, or differing in composition) but were of secondary importance. Turnover in composition between upland lakes was lower than in other lake types, reflecting a more specialist flora and increased potential for propagule exchange due to spatial aggregation and higher hydrological connectivity. Main conclusions Vegetation composition in lakes is more spatially-structured than previously appreciated, consistent with the importance of dispersal limitation, but this does not apply evenly to all lakes, being most acute in lowland high alkalinity lakes. Thus, spatially-structured abiotic factors, such as alkalinity, influence macrophyte composition most (suggestive of niche filtering) in high alkalinity lakes where human impacts tend to be greatest, although nestedness was also lowest in such lakes. By contrast, hydrological connectivity has a proportionally stronger structuring role in upland lakes.

Connectivity; dispersal; hydrology; scale-dependent; metacommunity; nestedness; turnover; variation partitioning

Journal of Biogeography: Volume 46, Issue 5

Publication date31/05/2019
Publication date online30/04/2019
Date accepted by journal28/02/2019