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Aquatic plants and ecosystem functions in streams

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Streams and rivers carry out a range of ecosystem functions including ecosystem metabolism and nutrient cycling, which are influenced by natural processes and human activities across landscapes. Ecosystem metabolism (photosynthesis and respiration) is a fundamental characteristic of ecosystems and is an important controller of ecosystem biomass and energy flow. Nutrient cycling influences the availabilities of nutrients, which profoundly affect the structure and function of ecosystems. River networks regulate the export of carbon and nutrients from the terrestrial landscape via streams to coastal waters, and thus play an important role in mitigating eutrophication of downstream ecosystems.

Aquatic plant and periphyton communities constitute an important component of the biodiversity in streams, and play an important role in stream ecology as they alter habitat conditions and have a strong influence on other organisms providing habitats and food resource for invertebrates and fish. The strong effect of aquatic plant and periphyton communities on ecological structure in the streams dictates their importance in ecosystem function i.e. nutrient cycling and metabolism. Thus, any alteration in species composition in aquatic plants and periphyton communities may affect ecosystem functioning.

In our research, we are interested in identifying the effects of stream structural characteristics including abundance and distribution of aquatic plants and periphyton on stream ecosystem functions focusing on nutrient cycling and metabolism.

Contact: Tenna Riis