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Great crested newts (Triturus cristatus) as indicators of aquatic plant diversity

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In a field study in south central Sweden, we analysed the diversity of macrophytes in paired samples of ponds in a total of five geographically separated sites. Each pair of ponds involved one pond with presence of great crested newts (Triturus cristatus) and one pond in which newts were absent. Ponds with presence of great crested newts had a significantly higher mean number of plant species than ponds without newts. Newts occurred in ponds that tended to have a lower amount of pond area covered by surface vegetation, although this difference was not statistically significant. Macrophyte diversity also tended to increase more steeply in ponds with T. cristatus, compared with ponds without newts. Broad-leaved pond weed (Potamogeton natans) and square-leaved liverwort (Chiloscyphus pallescens) were among the plants that were most associated with presence of great crested newts. Plant diversity had a slightly more nested structure for ponds with great crested newts than for those without, which indicates a more homogeneous plant species assemblage in the former group of ponds. Overall, the results indicate that the great crested newt may be a reliable and useful indicator species for high plant species richness in ponds and small wetlands, which may be valuable for environmental monitoring and conservation in pond landscapes.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2006

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