The value of plant functional groups in demonstrating and communicating vegetation responses to environmental flows

Campbell, C. J., Johns, C. V. and Nielsen, D. L. (2014) The value of plant functional groups in demonstrating and communicating vegetation responses to environmental flows. Freshwater Biology, 59 4: 858-869. doi:10.1111/fwb.12309

Author Campbell, C. J.
Johns, C. V.
Nielsen, D. L.
Title The value of plant functional groups in demonstrating and communicating vegetation responses to environmental flows
Journal name Freshwater Biology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0046-5070
Publication date 2014-01-13
Year available 2014
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1111/fwb.12309
Open Access Status Not yet assessed
Volume 59
Issue 4
Start page 858
End page 869
Total pages 12
Place of publication Chichester, West Sussex, United Kingdom
Publisher Wiley-Blackwell
Language eng
Formatted abstract
This study compares the effectiveness of using plant species, genera, family or water plant functional group (WPFG) classifications for demonstrating differences in vegetation communities associated with inundation history.

Vegetation surveys were undertaken annually for 5 years from 2007–2008 to 2011–2012 at 18 floodplain wetlands. These wetlands are from two geographically separate locations situated along the lower Murray River. Wetlands have different inundation histories and have received varied amounts of environmental water since 2004. All plant species recorded were classified into WPFGs. An inundation classification was determined for each wetland at each survey time based on inundation history and inundation status at the time of survey (wet or dry).

This study found that plant species composition at individual wetlands is often unique with few species recorded across multiple wetlands. The use of WPFGs reduced the variability of plant communities between individual wetlands, between the two geographic locations and within inundation classifications. By reducing the variability between samples, broad trends in vegetation responses to different watering histories can be identified.

Individual wetlands can develop completely different suites of plant species in response to the same watering regime, particularly when separated over large distances. This variability can reduce the confidence managers have in predicting the plant communities likely to develop in response to prescribed watering regimes. Adaptively applying knowledge gained from monitoring to different wetlands or wetlands in different geographical regions is also difficult if responses are highly variable.

This study demonstrates that by classifying wetland vegetation into WPFGs the variability observed between samples can be reduced and the influence of floristic differences between individual wetlands and geographic locations can be negated or lessened. We discuss how the use of WPFGs can assist scientists and managers in demonstrating, predicting and communicating trends in vegetation community responses as a result of different watering regimes. The adoption and application of a consistent approach to the classification of plant species into WPFGs has the potential to enable responses and predictions to watering events to be made across broad spatial scales.
Keyword Monitoring
Plant classification
River Murray
Water regime
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Article first published online: 13 January 2014.

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation Publications
Official 2015 Collection
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 11 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 11 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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Created: Wed, 15 Jan 2014, 18:25:56 EST by Caitlin Johns on behalf of Centre For Mined Land Rehabilitation