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European river margins: Role of biodiversity in the functioning of riparian systems


River margin ecosystems are a dynamic interface between terrestrial and aquatic environments where biological processes and biodiversity tend to be maximized. Recent evidence suggests that river margin ecosystems are highly sensitive to global regional and local environmental changes. The ERMAS Programme was established in 1992 to increase our understanding of the processes controlling the structure and function of river margin ecosystems through cooperative research involving a European-wide network.
ERMAS II develops the activity of this network by focusing on the role of biodiversity (i.e. autogenic processes) in determining the sonRitivity of river margin ecosystems to changes in environmental conditions (particularly temperature and hydrology). The proposed programme combines three primary research tasks:
a) to understand the role of biodiversity in maintaining the structure, functio and stability of ecosystems;
b) to analyse ecosystem processes with particular reference to the organic matt cycle;
c) to determine and compare interactions and links between ecosystem processes and physical processes in contrasting situations, defined at two scales: climat region and patch.
The ERMAS network includes a latitudinsl gradient from 64°N to 43°N, and a climatic gradient from sub-polar, to maritime temperate, mediterranean, and temperate continental. The possible introduction in ERMAS II of a Swiss team would add a site with an alpine climate. Locally, a gradient of sites will be chosen to characterize a representative range of hydro-geomorphological and management-impacted settings.
ERMPS II will apply a set of core protocols and extensions of these protocols to investigate important problems that are specific to some rivers. The core focuses on the influence of litter type and quality (including native v exotic) on carbon and nitrogen dynamics, invertebrate community diversity, and decomposition processes, in permanently submerged (i.e. the aquatic littoral) and frequently submerged sites.
The core protocols form a sequence of research steps, summarized as follows: l) a rigorous site selection protocol has been devised on the basis of (i) frequency and duration of inundation and (ii) sediment/soil characteristics, to facilitate comparisons between the different rivers.
2) a field-survey protocol has been developed to enable assessment of the variation of biodiversity in the riparian corridor at three spatial scales (between-rivers, between reaches, and between patches) in relation to environmental factors.
3) a simple experimental protocol will be used to establish the influence of single species and mixed species litter on decomposition processes, including the influence of litter derived from introduced and exotic species. 4A) an experimental protocol has been formulated to assess the influence of environmental conditions on carbon and nitrogen dynamics in monospecific and mixed stands of herbaceous species, such as Urtica dioica and IEpatiens glandulifera.
4B) an experimental protocol has been produced to establish relationships between litter type and diversity, and invertebrate diversity, and the role of invertebrates in litter decomposition The project will have benefits for both wealth creation and quality of life by provlding scientific information and a modelling approach to aid the development of sustainable management of land and water resources Keywords siodiversity Ecosystem processes Hydro-climatic gradient River margins

Funding Scheme

CSC - Cost-sharing contracts


B15 2TT Birmingham
United Kingdom

Participants (8)

Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
29,Rue Jeanne Marvig
31055 Toulouse
Ecology Building
223 62 Lund
Loughborough University
United Kingdom
Martin Hall Epinal Way
LE11 3TU Loughborough
Via Calepina 14
393 Trento
NERC Institute of Freshwater Ecology
United Kingdom
Eastern Rivers Laboratory Abbots Ripton
PE17 2LS Huntingdon
Umeå Universitet
Universitetsomradet, Hus L
901 87 Umeå
University of Bucharest
91-95,Splaiul Independentei
76201 Bucuresti
Université de Neuchâtel
22,Rue Chantemerle
2007 Neuchâtel