Complex networks of functional connectivity in a wetland reconnected to its floodplain

Water Resources Research
By: , and 



Disturbances such as fire or flood, in addition to changing the local magnitude of ecological, hydrological, or biogeochemical processes, can also change their functional connectivity—how those processes interact in space. Complex networks offer promise for quantifying functional connectivity in watersheds. The approach resolves connections between nodes in space based on statistical similarities in perturbation signals (derived from solute time series) and is sensitive to a wider range of timescales than traditional mass-balance modeling. We use this approach to test hypotheses about how fire and flood impact ecological and biogeochemical dynamics in a wetland (Everglades, FL, USA) that was reconnected to its floodplain. Reintroduction of flow pulses after decades of separation by levees fundamentally reconfigured functional connectivity networks. The most pronounced expansion was that of the calcium network, which reflects periphyton dynamics and may represent an indirect influence of elevated nutrients, despite the comparatively smaller observed expansion of phosphorus networks. With respect to several solutes, periphyton acted as a “biotic filter,” shifting perturbations in water-quality signals to different timescales through slow but persistent transformations of the biotic community. The complex-networks approach also revealed portions of the landscape that operate in fundamentally different regimes with respect to dissolved oxygen, separated by a threshold in flow velocity of 1.2 cm/s, and suggested that complete removal of canals may be needed to restore connectivity with respect to biogeochemical processes. Fire reconfigured functional connectivity networks in a manner that reflected localized burn severity, but had a larger effect on the magnitude of solute concentrations.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Complex networks of functional connectivity in a wetland reconnected to its floodplain
Series title Water Resources Research
DOI 10.1002/2017WR020375
Volume 53
Issue 7
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher AGU Publications
Contributing office(s) National Research Program - Eastern Branch
Description 10 p.
First page 6089
Last page 6108
Country United States
State Florida
Other Geospatial Everglades
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