Environmental Characteristics and Anthropogenic Impact Jointly Modify Aquatic Macrophyte Species Diversity.

Research paper by Merja M Elo, Janne J Alahuhta, Antti A Kanninen, Kristian K KK Meissner, Katri K Seppälä, Mikko M Mönkkönen

Indexed on: 28 Aug '18Published on: 28 Aug '18Published in: Frontiers in plant science


Species richness and spatial variation in community composition (i.e., beta diversity) are key measures of biodiversity. They are largely determined by natural factors, but also increasingly affected by anthropogenic factors. Thus, there is a need for a clear understanding of the human impact on species richness and beta diversity, the underlying mechanisms, and whether human-induced changes can override natural patterns. Here, we dissect the patterns of species richness, community composition and beta diversity in relation to different environmental factors as well as human impact in one framework: aquatic macrophytes in 66 boreal lakes in Eastern Finland. The lakes had been classified as having high, good or moderate status (according to ecological classification of surface waters in Finland) reflecting multifaceted human impact. We used generalized least square models to study the association between different environmental variables (Secchi depth, irregularity of the shoreline, total phosphorus, pH, alkalinity, conductivity) and species richness. We tested the null hypothesis that the observed community composition can be explained by random distribution of species. We used multivariate distance matrix regression to test the effect of each environmental variable on community composition, and distance-based test for homogeneity of multivariate dispersion to test whether lakes classified as high, good or moderate status have different beta diversity. We showed that environmental drivers of species richness and community composition were largely similar, although dependent on the particular life-form group studied. The most important ones were characteristics of water quality (pH, alkalinity, conductivity) and irregularity of the shoreline. Differences in community composition were related to environmental variables independently of species richness. Species richness was higher in lakes with higher levels of human impact. Lakes with different levels of human impact had different community composition. Between-lake beta diversity did not differ in high, good or moderate status groups. However, the variation in environmental variables shaping community composition was larger in lakes with moderate status compared to other lakes. Hence, beta diversity in lakes with moderate status was smaller than what could be expected on the basis of these environmental characteristics. This could be interpreted as homogenization.