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Journal Articles Communications Biology Year : 2022

A whole-ecosystem experiment reveals flow-induced shifts in a stream community

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Abstract

The growing threat of abrupt and irreversible changes to the functioning of freshwater ecosystems compels robust measures of tipping point thresholds. To determine benthic cyanobacteria regime shifts in a potable water supply system in the tropical Andes, we conducted a whole ecosystem-scale experiment in which we systematically diverted 20 to 90% of streamflow and measured ecological responses. Benthic cyanobacteria greatly increased with a 60% flow reduction and this tipping point was related to water temperature and nitrate concentration increases, both known to boost algal productivity. We supplemented our experiment with a regional survey collecting > 1450 flow-benthic algal measurements at streams varying in water abstraction levels. We confirmed the tipping point flow value, albeit at a slightly lower threshold (40-50%). A global literature review broadly confirmed our results with a mean tipping point at 58% of flow reduction. Our study provides robust in situ demonstrations of regime shift thresholds in running waters with potentially strong implications for environmental flows management.
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Dates and versions

hal-03712770 , version 1 (04-07-2022)

Licence

Attribution - CC BY 4.0

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Daniela Rosero-López, M. Todd Walter, Alexander Flecker, Bert de Bièvre, Rafael Osorio, et al.. A whole-ecosystem experiment reveals flow-induced shifts in a stream community. Communications Biology, 2022, 5 (1), 8 p. ⟨10.1038/s42003-022-03345-5⟩. ⟨hal-03712770⟩
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