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Physical habitat modifications by submerged aquatic vegetation : consequences for biogeochemical processes and feedbacks for plants

Abstract : Submerged aquatic vegetation often grows in lotic systems in patches generated by scale-dependent feedbacks. As ecosystem engineers, plants modify the physical environment triggering positive feedbacks within the patch and negative feedbacks alongside the patch, resulting in regular pattern formation. These scale-dependent feedbacks enable to explain only the lateral expansion of patches, but not their longitudinal development. The objective was to study the processes that trigger positive and negative feedbacks for plants along patches and the consequences for patch dynamics. In situ coupled measurements of hydrodynamics, sediment characteristics, and plant morphology were performed along patches of increasing length. The results demonstrated that a minimum patch length was needed to induce in-patch velocity reduction and fine sediment accumulation. As a consequence of these modifications, patch length influenced the nutrient concentrations in interstitial water of the in-patch sediment, this effect being observed only over a certain threshold length. Over this threshold length, the sediment presented an accumulation of ammonium and depletion of nitrates. Plant height was related to patch length by a quadratic relationship, suggesting that negative feedbacks occur over a certain patch length, probably due to the high ammonium concentration that can be toxic for plants in the range measured. The threshold lengths over which patches influence the biogeochemical processes and negative feedbacks occur were reduced in the ecosystem presenting the highest nutrient level. The results also demonstrated that the physical habitat modifications induced by patches depend on the plant traits and patch characteristics. The plant-induced modifications of the physical habitat have cascading effects on the biogeochemical processes and plant growth, which depended on the environmental conditions, with consequences for patch dynamics and ecosystem functioning
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Sofia Licci. Physical habitat modifications by submerged aquatic vegetation : consequences for biogeochemical processes and feedbacks for plants. Ecology, environment. Université de Lyon, 2018. English. ⟨NNT : 2018LYSE1132⟩. ⟨tel-01911253⟩

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