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Arizona State University (2011)

How Will Hydrologic Change Alter Riparian Plant Communities of the Arid and Semi-Arid Southwest ? The Problem Approached from Two Perspectives

Hazelton, Andrea Florence

Titre : How Will Hydrologic Change Alter Riparian Plant Communities of the Arid and Semi-Arid Southwest ? The Problem Approached from Two Perspectives

Auteur : Hazelton, Andrea Florence

Université de soutenance : Arizona State University (ASU)

Grade : Master of Science (M.S.) Plant Biology 2011

Résumé
Climate change has the potential to affect vegetation via changes in temperature and precipitation. In the semi-arid southwestern United States, heightened temperatures will likely lead to accelerated groundwater pumping to meet human needs, and altered storm patterns may lead to changes in flood regimes. All of these hydrologic changes have the potential to alter riparian vegetation. This research, consisting of two papers, examines relationships between hydrology and riparian vegetation along the Verde River in central Arizona, from applied and theoretical perspectives. One paper investigates how dominance of tree and shrub species and cover of certain functional groups change along hydrologic gradients. The other paper uses the Verde River flora along with that river’s flood and moisture gradients to answer the question of whether functional groups can be defined universally. Drying of the Verde River would lead to a shift from cottonwood-willow streamside forest to more drought adapted desert willow or saltcedar, a decline in streamside marsh species, and decreased species richness. Effects drying will have on one dominant forest tree, velvet ash, is unclear. Increase in the frequency of large floods would potentially increase forest density and decrease average tree age and diameter. Correlations between functional traits of Verde River plants and hydrologic gradients are consistent with "leaf economics," or the axis of resource capture, use, and release, as the primary strategic trade-off for plants. This corresponds to the competitor-stress tolerator gradient in Grime’s life history strategy theory. Plant height was also a strong indicator of hydrologic condition, though it is not clear from the literature if plant height is independent enough of leaf characteristics on a global scale to be considered a second axis. Though the ecohydrologic relationships are approached from different perspectives, the results of the two papers are consistent if interpreted together. The species that are currently dominant in the near-channel Verde River floodplain are tall, broad-leaf trees, and the species that are predicted to become more dominant in the case of the river drying are shorter trees or shrubs with smaller leaves. These results have implications for river and water management, as well as theoretical ecology

Sujets : Ecology / Plant biology / ecohydrology / environmental flows / Grime life history strategies / leaf economics spectrum / plant functional traits / Verde River

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