The relative importance of eutrophication and connectivity in structuring biological communities of the Upper Lough Erne system, Northern Ireland.
Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London).
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This study investigates the relative importance of eutrophication and connectivity (dispersal) in structuring macrophyte and invertebrate lake assemblages across spatial and temporal scales in the Upper Lough Erne (ULE) system, Northern Ireland. Riverine systems and their associated flood-plains and lakes comprise dynamic diverse landscapes in which water flow plays a key role in affecting connectivity. However, as for many other freshwater systems, their ecological integrity is threatened by eutrophication and hydrological alteration. Eutrophication results in a shift from primarily benthic to primarily pelagic primary production and reductions in species diversity, while flow regulation often reduces water level fluctuation and hydrological connectivity in linked riverine systems. Low water levels promote isolation between areas and increases the importance of local driving forces (e.g. eutrophication). Conversely, enhanced water flow and flooding events promote connectivity in systems thus potentially increasing local diversity and homogenising habitats through the exchange of species. Therefore, connectivity may help to override the local effects of eutrophication. Attempts at testing the above ideas are rare and typically involve the examination of current community patterns using space for time substitution. However, biological community responses to eutrophication and changes in hydrological connectivity may involve lags, historical contingency, and may be manifested over intergenerational timescales (10s -100s of years), rendering modern studies less than satisfactory for building an understanding of processes that drive community structure and effect change. By combining contemporary and palaeolimnological data this study demonstrates that the ULE system is far from its pre-disturbance state as an oligotrophic-mesotrophic system. Furthermore, contemporary and palaeo-data suggest there has been a strong interaction between eutrophication and hydrological change, which influences the distributions and abundances of representative taxa in the ULE system. Thus, while eutrophication has promoted a decrease in compositional heterogeneity of organisms and has exerted a homogenising effect over time, connectivity has buffered the effects of eutrophication helping to maintain local diversity via re-introductions.
|Title:||The relative importance of eutrophication and connectivity in structuring biological communities of the Upper Lough Erne system, Northern Ireland|
|Open access status:||An open access version is available from UCL Discovery|
|UCL classification:||UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > Geography|
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