Special Issue "Multiplicity, Characteristics, Main Impacts, and Stewardship of Natural and Artificial Freshwater Environments: Consequences for Biodiversity Conservation"

A special issue of Water (ISSN 2073-4441). This special issue belongs to the section "Water Quality and Ecosystems".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (22 November 2019).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Marco Cantonati
Website
Guest Editor
Head of Limnology and Phycology Section, Museo delle Scienze - MUSE, Trento, Italy
Interests: freshwater science; environmental biology; environmental change; phycology; groundwater
Dr. Sandra Poikane
Website
Guest Editor
EC Joint Research Centre, Directorate Sustainable resources
Interests: applied ecology; aquatic bioassessment; freshwater ecology; alternative biomonitoring methods
Prof. Dr. Catherine M. Pringle
Website
Guest Editor
Odum School of Ecology, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA. 30602-2602
Dr. Lawrence E. Stevens
Website
Guest Editor
Director, Springs Stewardship Institute, Museum of Northern Arizona, 3101 N. Fort Valley Rd., Flagstaff, AZ 86001 Northern Arizona, USA
Dr. Eren Turak

Guest Editor
Principal Scientist, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage; Australian Museum
Interests: freshwater biodiversity observations; freshwater conservation planning; Earth observations

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The rationale of this Special Issue is to collect papers that discuss the potential of the different natural and artificial freshwater habitat types to contribute to freshwater biodiversity conservation. We are especially seeking articles that illustrate the potential of near-natural and man-made freshwater habitats (focus can be narrowed on ecolgical categories, e.g., phytobenthos- or taxocoenoses, etc.) for biodiversity conservation by examining their ecological characteristics, conservation status, and main impacts affecting them. The following topics are alredy planned to be included in the Special Issue: Potential and value of springs, natural and artificial lakes affected by marked water-level fluctuations, large ancient lakes, mires, mountain and high-mountain lakes, streams and rivers for freshwater biodiversity conservation; springs (as compared to streams) as refugial habitat for sensitive species (Least-Impaired Habitat Relicts—LIHRe concept); can freshwater-biodiversity inventoring be funded independently from assessment and monitoring efforts?

Dr. Marco Cantonati
Dr. Sandra Poikane
Prof. Dr. Catherine M. Pringle
Dr. Lawrence E. Stevens
Dr. Eren Turak
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Water is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Near-natural freshwater habitats
  • man-made freshwater habitats
  • freshwater biodiversity
  • conservation ecology
  • biodiversity inventoring
  • environmental-quality assessments
  • water-level fluctuations (WLF)

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
Freshwater Reptile Persistence and Conservation in Cities: Insights from Species Occurrence Records
Water 2020, 12(3), 651; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12030651 - 28 Feb 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
Reptiles are rarely included in urban freshwater biodiversity monitoring and conservation. We explored the global persistence of freshwater dependent turtles, lizards, crocodilians and snakes in cities with a population greater than 100,000 using species occurrence data in online databases from a five-year period [...] Read more.
Reptiles are rarely included in urban freshwater biodiversity monitoring and conservation. We explored the global persistence of freshwater dependent turtles, lizards, crocodilians and snakes in cities with a population greater than 100,000 using species occurrence data in online databases from a five-year period (2013–2018). We then used ecological niche models to help identify the locations of suitable habitats for three freshwater reptile species in Sydney, Australia. Our Global analysis showed that sightings of a majority of known species of crocodilians and freshwater turtles were recorded in databases within this 5-year period in contrast to about one in three freshwater lizard species and one in ten freshwater snake species and that freshwater reptiles were observed within 50 km of the center of 40% of the 3525 cities. While global databases hold substantial recent species occurrence records for some regions, they contain very little data for large parts of the world. Modelling showed that potential suitable habitat for the three freshwater species in Sydney was distributed across areas with different levels of urban development. The persistence of populations of freshwater reptiles in and around a large proportion of the world’s cities show that this group can play an important role in urban biodiversity conservation. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Diatom Species Richness in Swiss Springs Increases with Habitat Complexity and Elevation
Water 2020, 12(2), 449; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12020449 - 07 Feb 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
Understanding the drivers of species richness gradients is a central challenge of ecological and biodiversity research in freshwater science. Species richness along elevational gradients reveals a great variety of patterns. Here, we investigate elevational changes in species richness and turnover between microhabitats in [...] Read more.
Understanding the drivers of species richness gradients is a central challenge of ecological and biodiversity research in freshwater science. Species richness along elevational gradients reveals a great variety of patterns. Here, we investigate elevational changes in species richness and turnover between microhabitats in near-natural spring habitats across Switzerland. Species richness was determined for 175 subsamples from 71 near-natural springs, and Poisson regression was applied between species richness and environmental predictors. Compositional turnover was calculated between the different microhabitats within single springs using the Jaccard index based on observed species and the Chao index based on estimated species numbers. In total, 539 diatom species were identified. Species richness increased monotonically with elevation. Habitat diversity and elevation explaining some of the species richness per site. The Jaccard index for the measured compositional turnover showed a mean similarity of 70% between microhabitats within springs, whereas the Chao index which accounts for sampling artefacts estimated a turnover of only 37%. Thus, the commonly applied method of counting 500 valves led to an undersampling of the rare species and might need to be reconsidered when assessing diatom biodiversity. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Glacial Stream Ecology: Structural and Functional Assets
Water 2020, 12(2), 376; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12020376 - 30 Jan 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
High altitude glacier-fed streams are harsh environments inhabiting specialized invertebrate communities. Most research on biotic aspects in glacier-fed streams have focused on the simple relationship between presence/absence of species and prevailing environmental conditions, whereas functional strategies and potentials of glacial stream specialists have [...] Read more.
High altitude glacier-fed streams are harsh environments inhabiting specialized invertebrate communities. Most research on biotic aspects in glacier-fed streams have focused on the simple relationship between presence/absence of species and prevailing environmental conditions, whereas functional strategies and potentials of glacial stream specialists have been hardly investigated so far. Using new and recent datasets from our investigations in the European Alps, we now demonstrate distinct functional properties of invertebrates that typically dominate glacier-fed streams and show significant relationships with declining glacier cover in alpine stream catchments. In particular, we present and argue about cause-effect relationships between glacier cover in the catchment and temperature, community structure, diversity, feeding strategies, early life development, body mass, and growth of invertebrates. By concentrating on key taxa in glacial and non-glacial alpine streams, the relevance of distinct adaptations in these functional components becomes evident. This clearly demonstrates that further studies of functional characteristics are essential for the understanding of peculiar diversity patterns, successful traits and their plasticity, evolutionary triggered species adaptions, and flexibilities. Full article
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Predicting Extreme-Precipitation Effects on the Geomorphology of Small Mountain Catchments: Towards an Improved Understanding of the Consequences for Freshwater Biodiversity and Ecosystems
Water 2020, 12(1), 79; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12010079 - 24 Dec 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
In 2015 an intense rainfall event hit the Valleys of the Trebbia, Nure, and Aveto watercourses in the Northern Apennines. In about 6 h a mesoscale convective system deployed a stunning amount of precipitation of 340 mm, with an extreme hourly rainfall intensity [...] Read more.
In 2015 an intense rainfall event hit the Valleys of the Trebbia, Nure, and Aveto watercourses in the Northern Apennines. In about 6 h a mesoscale convective system deployed a stunning amount of precipitation of 340 mm, with an extreme hourly rainfall intensity of >100 mm/h. It triggered debris flows along slopes and stream channels, landslides and floods, which caused serious damages. Through the optimal combination of rainfall data and radar volumes, in this work we present a detailed rainfall analysis, which will serve as a basis to create a quantitative correlation with debris flows over elementary hydrological units. We aim at providing an objective basis for future predictions, starting from the recognition of the forcing meteorological events, and then arriving at the prediction of triggering phenomena and to the debris-flow type. We further provide seven observations/case studies on the effects of extreme-precipitation events on freshwater environments in small mountain catchments. Extreme-precipitation events are becoming more frequent and widespread globally but their ecological effects are still insufficiently understood. In general, the effects of extreme events on inland-waters’ ecosystems are highly context-dependent, ranging from deleterious to beneficial. We therefore highlight the necessity of further studies to characterize these effects in more depth to be able to include appropriate mitigation measures in environmental planning and stewardship. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Diatom Biodiversity in Karst Springs of Mediterranean Geographic Areas with Contrasting Characteristics: Islands vs Mainland
Water 2019, 11(12), 2602; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11122602 - 10 Dec 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Karst ecosystems are considered as priority environments for the protection of biodiversity on a global scale. This study provides a first comparative analysis of epilithic diatom flora from karst springs in two Mediterranean geographic areas (Spain and Italy) with contrasting characteristics (islands vs [...] Read more.
Karst ecosystems are considered as priority environments for the protection of biodiversity on a global scale. This study provides a first comparative analysis of epilithic diatom flora from karst springs in two Mediterranean geographic areas (Spain and Italy) with contrasting characteristics (islands vs mainland). We investigated twenty-three springs with different anthropogenic impact levels once in the winter season between 2007 and 2017 (N = 23). A total of 176 diatom taxa (56 genera) were found of which 101 (44 genera) were observed in single sites. A general good biotic integrity was revealed by structural indices (species richness, diversity and evenness). However, crenophilous species were generally present and abundant in less impacted springs. Comparing islands and mainland, significant differences were found in species composition and diversity (H’) based on multivariate analyses (global R = 0.610; p = 0.001) and t-test (t = 2.304; p = 0.031). Discharge and Cl were the most significant variables in determining diatom assemblages. Our results confirm the role of springs as multiple ecotones and refuges for rare species and suggest that the geographic insularity may be an important factor in maintaining diatom biodiversity. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Diversity and Structure of the Tychoplankton Diatom Community in the Limnocrene Spring Zelenci (Slovenia) in Relation to Environmental Factors
Water 2018, 10(4), 361; https://doi.org/10.3390/w10040361 - 23 Mar 2018
Cited by 2
Abstract
The influence of selected factors on the diversity and composition of tychoplanktonic diatom community in limnocrene spring Zelenci was investigated. The spring that was studied is located in a glacial valley in the south-eastern calcareous Alps. Samples of tychoplankton were collected with a [...] Read more.
The influence of selected factors on the diversity and composition of tychoplanktonic diatom community in limnocrene spring Zelenci was investigated. The spring that was studied is located in a glacial valley in the south-eastern calcareous Alps. Samples of tychoplankton were collected with a plankton net between October 2012 and August 2015 and for each sample, selected abiotic factors were measured. Over 100 different diatom species were identified, the most abundant being Achnanthidium minutissimum and Denticula tenuis. The most species-rich genera were Navicula, Fragilaria, Nitzschia, Cymbella and Gomphonema. The most significant impact on species composition of tychoplanktonic diatom community was from the conductivity of the water and the consecutive number of the month. Diversity was correlated negatively with concentration of orthophosphate and positively with pH and water level. Benthic species from the low profile ecological group dominated the tychoplankton community, with a share of 30–72%. High profile and motile species characteristic for benthos reached higher shares on average than euplanktonic species. This indicates the essential role of underwater springs in the maintenance of a species-rich tychoplanktonic community. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
To What Extent Are Swiss Springs Refugial Habitats for Sensitive and Endangered Diatom Taxa?
Water 2017, 9(12), 967; https://doi.org/10.3390/w9120967 - 12 Dec 2017
Cited by 10
Abstract
Habitat alteration is one of the major drivers of species loss. Springs may be among the least affected aquatic habitats and are considered to be refugial habitats. Diatom assemblages were sampled from 74 Swiss springs comprising seven spring types over a wide altitudinal [...] Read more.
Habitat alteration is one of the major drivers of species loss. Springs may be among the least affected aquatic habitats and are considered to be refugial habitats. Diatom assemblages were sampled from 74 Swiss springs comprising seven spring types over a wide altitudinal and ecological range as well as a wide range of anthropogenic modifications (alterations). Each spring was assigned to a five-point alteration scale, from natural to heavily altered. In total, 504 diatom species were recorded (not including 36 taxa that could not be identified to species level) from five microhabitats, and coded according to rarity and Red List status. The results of this extensive spring-habitat diatom survey were compared statistically with a large stream diatom dataset (DI-CH). The spring diatom microflora was more species rich and included more rare and/or threatened species than the stream microflora. The proportion of Red List species and rare species was highest in the DI-CH dataset, but the proportion of species with no Red List status and rare species was the highest in springs. Species richness, Red List status, and rarity were significantly related to the degree of spring alteration. This is consistent with the hypothesis that unaltered springs function as refuges for the Swiss fresh water microflora, and that they can be regarded as “least-impaired habitats”. These may be critically important for the conservation of the European freshwater diatom microflora. Full article
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Review

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Open AccessFeature PaperReview
Characteristics, Main Impacts, and Stewardship of Natural and Artificial Freshwater Environments: Consequences for Biodiversity Conservation
Water 2020, 12(1), 260; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12010260 - 16 Jan 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
In this overview (introductory article to a special issue including 14 papers), we consider all main types of natural and artificial inland freshwater habitas (fwh). For each type, we identify the main biodiversity patterns and ecological features, human impacts on the system and [...] Read more.
In this overview (introductory article to a special issue including 14 papers), we consider all main types of natural and artificial inland freshwater habitas (fwh). For each type, we identify the main biodiversity patterns and ecological features, human impacts on the system and environmental issues, and discuss ways to use this information to improve stewardship. Examples of selected key biodiversity/ecological features (habitat type): narrow endemics, sensitive (groundwater and GDEs); crenobionts, LIHRes (springs); unidirectional flow, nutrient spiraling (streams); naturally turbid, floodplains, large-bodied species (large rivers); depth-variation in benthic communities (lakes); endemism and diversity (ancient lakes); threatened, sensitive species (oxbow lakes, SWE); diverse, reduced littoral (reservoirs); cold-adapted species (Boreal and Arctic fwh); endemism, depauperate (Antarctic fwh); flood pulse, intermittent wetlands, biggest river basins (tropical fwh); variable hydrologic regime—periods of drying, flash floods (arid-climate fwh). Selected impacts: eutrophication and other pollution, hydrologic modifications, overexploitation, habitat destruction, invasive species, salinization. Climate change is a threat multiplier, and it is important to quantify resistance, resilience, and recovery to assess the strategic role of the different types of freshwater ecosystems and their value for biodiversity conservation. Effective conservation solutions are dependent on an understanding of connectivity between different freshwater ecosystems (including related terrestrial, coastal and marine systems). Full article
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Open AccessReview
Conserving Rivers and Their Biodiversity in Tanzania
Water 2019, 11(12), 2612; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11122612 - 11 Dec 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
The United Republic of Tanzania (Tanzania) is rich in freshwater resources and biodiversity. In this article, we highlight the importance of Tanzanian rivers and make a case for the conservation of the freshwater and terrestrial species that rely on these rivers. We provide [...] Read more.
The United Republic of Tanzania (Tanzania) is rich in freshwater resources and biodiversity. In this article, we highlight the importance of Tanzanian rivers and make a case for the conservation of the freshwater and terrestrial species that rely on these rivers. We provide an overview of current knowledge on Tanzanian rivers and discuss progress towards implementation of the National Water Policy (2002) and Water Management Act (2009), two legislative instruments that have motivated environmental flow assessments on at least six major rivers and offer legal backing for river conservation. We examine major challenges that pose significant threats to water security for river ecosystems and humans in Tanzania, among those: (1) human population growth, (2) agricultural expansion, (3) river flow alterations, (4) industrialization, (5) introduced species, and (6) climate change. We conclude by offering recommendations for future river conservation efforts in Tanzania. Full article
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Open AccessReview
Ecological and Conservation Value of Small Standing-Water Ecosystems: A Systematic Review of Current Knowledge and Future Challenges
Water 2019, 11(3), 402; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11030402 - 26 Feb 2019
Cited by 3
Abstract
A small standing-water ecosystem (SWE) is a shallow (<20 m) lentic water body with a surface of a few hectares (≤10 ha). Compared to larger counterparts, they exhibit wider ecotones, sometimes even equaling their whole surface, which maximizes structural heterogeneity, supporting exceptionally high [...] Read more.
A small standing-water ecosystem (SWE) is a shallow (<20 m) lentic water body with a surface of a few hectares (≤10 ha). Compared to larger counterparts, they exhibit wider ecotones, sometimes even equaling their whole surface, which maximizes structural heterogeneity, supporting exceptionally high biodiversity, metabolic rates, and functionality. Surprisingly, no binding regulations support global strategies for SWE conservation. This work consists of a literature review performed for the period 2004–2018 to assess the ecological and conservation value of SWEs and the contribution of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) in promoting their conservation. Outcomes from this work open new perspectives on SWEs, which emerge as valuable ecosystems, and confirm their pivotal contribution to watershed biodiversity, resilience, and functionality. Results also suggest clear narrative trends and large knowledge gaps across geographical areas, biological components, and target issues. Additionally, we note that SWEs are under-represented in the frame of WFD implementation, stressing their marginality into assessing procedures. All of this calls for further studies, especially outside Europe and with a global, multi-taxon perspective. These should be devoted to quantitatively assess the roles of SWEs in maintaining global water ecosystem quality, biodiversity, and services, and to prioritize management actions for their conservation. Full article
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Open AccessReview
Biological Diversity in Headwater Streams
Water 2019, 11(2), 366; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11020366 - 21 Feb 2019
Cited by 4
Abstract
Headwaters, the sources of all stream networks, provide habitats that are unique from other freshwater environments and are used by a specialised subset of aquatic species. The features of headwaters that provide special habitats include predator-free or competitor-free spaces; specific resources (particularly detrital [...] Read more.
Headwaters, the sources of all stream networks, provide habitats that are unique from other freshwater environments and are used by a specialised subset of aquatic species. The features of headwaters that provide special habitats include predator-free or competitor-free spaces; specific resources (particularly detrital based); and moderate variations in flows, temperature and discharge. Headwaters provide key habitats for all or some life stages for a large number of species across just about all freshwater phyla and divisions. Some features of headwaters, including isolation and small population sizes, have allowed for the evolutionary radiation of many groups of organisms within and beyond those habitats. As small and easily engineered physical spaces, headwaters are easily degraded by streambank development, ditching and even burial. Headwater streams are among the most sensitive of freshwater ecosystems due to their intimate linkage with their catchments and how easily they are impacted. As a unique ecosystem with many specialist species, headwater streams deserve better stewardship. Full article
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Open AccessReview
Why Do We Need to Document and Conserve Foundation Species in Freshwater Wetlands?
Water 2019, 11(2), 265; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11020265 - 03 Feb 2019
Cited by 4
Abstract
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 [...] Read more.
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. Full article
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