Managing riverine landscapes as meta-ecosystems

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 9:00 AM
Klement Tockner, Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB), Berlin, Germany
Aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems are tightly linked through energy, material, information, and organism flows. At the landscape scale, these reciprocal flows are controlled by the composition, configuration, boundary conditions and linkage of individual ecosystem types, thereby forming so-called meta-ecosystems. The relative importance of individual ecosystem types depends on the intrinsic properties (so-called “ecosystem traits”), the setting within the landscape, and the characteristics of interfaces that control cross-system fluxes. For example, the juxtaposition of particular ecosystem types (i.e. their composition and configuration) may alter the magnitude of landscape processes as well as the directions of flow among ecosystem types. Therefore, the meta-ecosystem concept provides a framework to quantify ecosystem diversity, a neglected component of biodiversity, and to test its effects on genetic and species diversity as well as the functional performance in coupled ecosystems. Given their topographic position at the lowest point in the landscape, aquatic ecosystems are particularly susceptible to influences exerted by their surrounding terrestrial environment, both the immediately adjacent riparian zones and the entire catchment that they drain. Questions that need to be tackled may include: What are the consequences of exchange pulses between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems on the functional performance of individual ecosystems? What are the mechanisms and processes underlying structural and functional biodiversity at aquatic-terrestrial interfaces? In this respect, the meta-ecosystem concept might be very helpful in landscape management and in ecosystem design and engineering.