Novel ecosystems result from a combination of altered historical abiotic regimes and new species assemblages. In freshwater systems, novel environmental conditions often result from large-scale changes to hydrological connectivity as well as species invasions. Novel environmental conditions may affect the survival of aquatic fauna by altering dispersal patterns and resource fluctuations, and/or may impose physiological constraints on native species evolutionarily adapted to particular environments. Further, novel systems can provide insight into processes driving community structure because re-sorting or filtering of regional biota is a likely consequence of decoupling from historical conditions. Although several studies document the presence of novel conditions, few examine variation or gradients in novelty. The Florida Everglades is a highly invaded and hydrologically altered system characterized by a large network of canals that compartmentalize the ecosystem and act to both increase and decrease connectivity. Little is known about how canals in this region function as habitat for native and nonnative fishes, the extent to which these canals may function as novel habitats, and how these habitat characteristics may influence distribution, abundance, and assembly patterns. In this study, we examined native and nonnative fish assemblages along a gradient of novelty, defined as the loss of wetland connectivity, influence of the natural hydrological regime, and habitat complexity (well connected to leveed canals). As novelty increased, native species richness and abundance strongly declined and the contribution of nonnatives increased to nearly 50%. Vast differences in community structure across the novelty gradient were strongly influenced by spatial factors and secondarily by hydrological factors, while habitat and abiotic factors were of very low relevance. Natives and nonnatives had opposing responses to key hydrological and habitat characteristics. Abundance of native fishes declined with decreased connectivity to adjacent marshes and canal littoral zone width, while nonnative fishes increased significantly in the most novel canals. Our results suggest that the inherent loss of natural environmental conditions and subsequent replacement by novel ones can lead to extensive changes in fish community structure. Success or failure at maintaining native assemblages will rely heavily on natural resource manager's ability to incorporate natural environmental characteristics with ecosystem restoration.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Gandy, D. A., and J. S. Rehage. 2017. Examining gradients in ecosystem novelty: fish assemblage structure in an invaded Everglades canal system. Ecosphere 8(1):e01634. 10.1002/ecs2.1634
In Copyright. URI: http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC/1.0/
This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).