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Why Do We Need to Document and Conserve Foundation Species in Freshwater Wetlands?

1
Southeast Environmental Research Center, Institute of Water & Environment, Florida International University, Miami, FL 33199, USA
2
Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, 3584 CB Utrecht, The Netherlands
3
Department of Geography, University of Zurich, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland
4
Department of Environmental Engineering Sciences, Engineering School for Sustainable Infrastructure and the Environment, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Water 2019, 11(2), 265; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11020265
Received: 30 October 2018 / Revised: 24 January 2019 / Accepted: 27 January 2019 / Published: 3 February 2019
Foundation species provide habitat to other organisms and enhance ecosystem functions, such as nutrient cycling, carbon storage and sequestration, and erosion control. We focus on freshwater wetlands because these ecosystems are often characterized by foundation species; eutrophication and other environmental changes may cause the loss of some of these species, thus severely damaging wetland ecosystems. To better understand how wetland primary producer foundation species support other species and ecosystem functions across environmental gradients, we reviewed ~150 studies in subtropical, boreal, and temperate freshwater wetlands. We look at how the relative dominance of conspicuous and well-documented species (i.e., sawgrass, benthic diatoms and cyanobacteria, Sphagnum mosses, and bald cypress) and the foundational roles they play interact with hydrology, nutrient availability, and exposure to fire and salinity in representative wetlands. Based on the evidence analyzed, we argue that the foundation species concept should be more broadly applied to include organisms that regulate ecosystems at different spatial scales, notably the microscopic benthic algae that critically support associated communities and mediate freshwater wetlands’ ecosystem functioning. We give recommendations on how further research efforts can be prioritized to best inform the conservation of foundation species and of the freshwater wetlands they support. View Full-Text
Keywords: foundation species; wetlands; algae; vascular plants; nonvascular plants; hydrology; phosphorus; salinity; fire foundation species; wetlands; algae; vascular plants; nonvascular plants; hydrology; phosphorus; salinity; fire
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Marazzi, L.; Gaiser, E.E.; Eppinga, M.B.; Sah, J.P.; Zhai, L.; Castañeda-Moya, E.; Angelini, C. Why Do We Need to Document and Conserve Foundation Species in Freshwater Wetlands? Water 2019, 11, 265.

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