Seasonal impoundment alters patterns of tidal wetland plant diversity across spatial scales
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Seasonal impoundment alters patterns of tidal wetland plant diversity across spatial scales

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    Understanding patterns of biodiversity is a key goal of ecology and is especially pressing in the current human‐caused biodiversity crisis. In wetland ecosystems, human impacts are centered around hydrologic manipulation including the common practice of wetland diking and impoundment. Constraining how wetland management influences plant biodiversity patterns across spatial scales will provide information on how best to modify actions to preserve biodiversity and ecosystem function in managed wetlands. Here, we compare patterns of plant diversity and species presence, abundance, and community composition at several spatial scales among tidal wetlands along an estuarine salinity gradient and managed wetlands that were formerly tidal. Managed impounded wetlands had decreased alpha and gamma diversity of rare species, with less than 60% of the species richness found in tidal brackish wetlands at several spatial scales. There was little change in the overall pattern of alpha, beta, and gamma diversity for common species in impounded wetlands; however, dominant tidal brackish species, primarily perennial rhizomatous graminoids, were replaced with management target plants and non‐native annual grasses in impounded wetlands. This species replacement led to over 60% of impounded sites being classified as containing novel plant assemblages. An additional 25% of impounded sites were classified as containing tidal saline plant assemblages, suggesting potential soil salinization. Along the estuarine gradient, patchiness and codominance of common plant species drove high diversity and turnover in tidal brackish wetlands, while it remains unclear whether tidal fresh or brackish wetlands maximize rare plant diversity. With reduced species richness, altered functional dominants, and novel or saline assemblages, impounded brackish wetlands may require careful water management to balance native plant biodiversity, associated ecosystem processes, and waterfowl requirements.
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    Ecosphere, 12(2)
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    CC BY
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