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Alterations in flood frequency increase exotic and native species richness of understorey vegetation in a temperate floodplain eucalypt forest

Kate Stokes, Keith Ward and Matthew Colloff
Plant Ecology
Vol. 211, No. 2 (DECEMBER 2010), pp. 219-233
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40926904
Page Count: 15
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Alterations in flood frequency increase exotic and native species richness of understorey vegetation in a temperate floodplain eucalypt forest
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Abstract

The delivery of environmental flows for biodiversity benefits within regulated river systems can potentially contribute to exotic weed spread. This study explores whether exotic plants of a floodplain forest in Victoria, Australia, are characterised by specific functional groups and associated plant traits linked to altering hydrological conditions over time. Permanently marked 20 × 20 m² plots from five wetland sites in Eucalyptus camaldulensis floodplain forest were sampled twice, first in the early 1990s (1993-1994) and then 15 years later (2007-2008). Species cover abundance data for understorey vegetation communities were segregated by season and analysed using ordination analysis. Exotic species richness was modelled as a function of site flooding history and native species richness using general linear models. Site ordinations by detrended correspondence analysis showed differential community compositions between survey dates, but native and exotic species were not clearly differentiated in terms of DCA1 scores. Most exotics belonged to functional groups containing annual species that germinate and reproduce under drier conditions. Exotics reproducing under wetter conditions were in the minority, predominantly perennial and capable of both sexual and asexual reproduction. Site flooding history and native species richness significantly predicted exotic species richness. Vegetation changes are partially structured by reduced flood frequency favouring increased abundance of exotic, sexually reproducing annuals at drier sites. Sites of low flood frequency are more sensitive to future exotic weed invasion and will require targeted management effort. Row restoration is predicted to benefit propagule dispersal of species adopting dual regeneration strategies, which are predominantly natives in this system.

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