The role of hydrological and spatial factors for the vegetation of Central European springs
AbstractUnderstanding the driving forces affecting species occurrences is a prerequisite for determining the indicator suitability of crenic plants. We analysed 18 environmental variables in a two-step approach, evaluating their ability to explain the species composition of 222 springs on five siliceous mountain ranges, in central Germany and north-west Czech Republic (49.9°–50.8°N, 10.6°–12.8°E). First, we identified the significant environmental variables in three subsets of spatial, hydrophysical and hydrochemical variables using a forward-selection procedure. We then performed a partial canonical correspondence analysis (pCCA) to estimate the influence of each subset alone, as well as in combinations. We also used a multiple response permutation procedure (MRPP) to compare the five regions with respect to the dissimilarity of their vegetation composition and environmental variables. Hydrochemical factors played a fundamental role in determining the plant community of the investigated springs. Spatial factors, in particular altitude, were correlated with the hydrochemical factors, but were less important. Hydrophysical factors played only a marginal role. More precisely, species occurrence was mainly driven by a gradient of nutrient availability, which in turn reflected the acidity status. This gradient was primarily represented by high Al, Cd, and Mn concentrations in acidic crenic waters, high Ca and Mg concentrations were encountered in circumneutral springs. By comparing the five regions we could show that there are spatial patterns in the vegetation of springs, which provide valuable ecological information on the water quality. We therefore suggest that biomonitoring approaches to vegetation are suitable for revealing the acidity status of springs and their forested catchments.
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