A floodplain continuum for Atlantic coast rivers of the Southeastern US: Predictable changes in floodplain biota along a river's length

Wetlands
By: , and 

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Abstract

Floodplains are among the world’s economically-most-valuable, environmentally-most-threatened, and yet conceptually-least-understood ecosystems. Drawing on concepts from existing riverine and wetland models, and empirical data from floodplains of Atlantic Coast rivers in the Southeastern US (and elsewhere when possible), we introduce a conceptual model to explain a continuum of longitudinal variation in floodplain ecosystem functions with a particular focus on biotic change. Our hypothesis maintains that major controls on floodplain ecology are either external (ecotonal interactions with uplands or stream/river channels) or internal (wetland-specific functions), and the relative importance of these controls changes progressively from headwater to mid-river to lower-river floodplains. Inputs of water, sediments, nutrients, flora, and fauna from uplands-to-floodplains decrease, while the impacts of wetland biogeochemistry and obligate wetland plants and animals within-floodplains increase, along the length of a river floodplain. Inputs of water, sediment, nutrients, and fauna from river/stream channels to floodplains are greatest mid-river, and lower either up- or down-stream. While the floodplain continuum we develop is regional in scope, we review how aspects may apply more broadly. Management of coupled floodplain-river ecosystems would be improved by accounting for how factors controlling the floodplain ecosystem progressively change along longitudinal riverine gradients.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title A floodplain continuum for Atlantic coast rivers of the Southeastern US: Predictable changes in floodplain biota along a river's length
Series title Wetlands
DOI 10.1007/s13157-017-0983-4
Volume 38
Issue 1
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Hydro-Ecological Interactions Branch
Description 13 p.
First page 1
Last page 13
Country United States