Biodiversity of floodplain forests in Europe and eastern North America: A comparative study of the Rhine and Mississippi Valleys

Authors: Schnitzler, Annik1; Hale, Brack2; Alsum, Esther3

Source: Biodiversity and Conservation, Volume 14, Number 1, January 2005 , pp. 97-117(21)

Publisher: Springer

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In this study, we investigate the mechanisms driving biodiversity in floodplain forests with a comparison of the composition and dynamics in the warm-temperate floodplain forests of the lower Mississippi Valley and the cool-temperate floodplain forests of the lower Wisconsin and Rhine River Valleys. We employ data from original research, as well as from the literature. We compare species, genus, and family diversity across regions with respect to species richness, numbers of species per family and genus, and a similarity index. We examine these results within a historical context, as well as with respect to river-floodplain dynamics. We also compare productivity data and successional stages for each region. We find a lower species, genus, and family richness in the cool-temperate forests of the Rhine compared to the cool-temperate forests of the Wisconsin, a probable result of the lack of available refugia for Rhine species in times of glacial expansion. We find the highest richness in the lower Mississippi Valley, likely a result of climatic factors and the availability of refugia in this region. In each of the regions, floodplain forests are more diverse than their upland counterparts, demonstrating the role of river-floodplain dynamics in maintaining species diversity. Each region maintains a high and relatively similar level of productivity in the floodplain forests. They also experience similar stages of succession, although succession becomes more complex in the warm-temperate forests of the Lower Mississippi.

Keywords: Biodiversity; Floodplain forests; Mississippi River; Productivity; Rhine River; Succession; Wisconsin River; Woody species richness

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Laboratoire Biodiversité et Fonctionnement des écosystèmes, Université de Metz, F-57070, Metz, France, 2: Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, Duke University, P.O. Box 90328, 27705, Durham, NC, USA, Email: 3: Department of Botany, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA,

Publication date: January 1, 2005

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