Resilience in river ecosystems requires that organisms must persist in the face of highly dynamic hydrological and geomorphological variations. Disturbance events such as floods and droughts are postulated to shape life history traits that support resilience, but river management and conservation would benefit from greater understanding of the emergent effects in communities of river organisms. We unify current knowledge of taxonomic-, phylogenetic-, and trait-based aspects of river communities that might aid the identification and quantification of resilience mechanisms. Temporal variations in river productivity, physical connectivity, and environmental heterogeneity resulting from floods and droughts are highlighted as key characteristics that promote resilience in these dynamic ecosystems. Three community-wide mechanisms that underlie resilience are (a) partitioning (competition/facilitation) of dynamically varying resources, (b) dispersal, recolonization, and recruitment promoted by connectivity, and (c) functional redundancy in communities promoted by resource heterogeneity and refugia. Along with taxonomic and phylogenetic identity, biological traits related to feeding specialization, dispersal ability, and habitat specialization mediate organism responses to disturbance. Measures of these factors might also enable assessment of the relative contributions of different mechanisms to community resilience. Interactions between abiotic drivers and biotic aspects of resource use, dispersal, and persistence have clear implications for river conservation and management. To support these management needs, we propose a set of taxonomic, phylogenetic, and life-history trait metrics that might be used to measure resilience mechanisms. By identifying such indicators, our proposed framework can enable targeted management strategies to adapt river ecosystems to global change.
Van Looy, K., Tonkin, J. D., Floury, M., Leigh, C., Soininen, J., Larsen, S., … Wolter, C. (2019, February 1). The three Rs of river ecosystem resilience: Resources, recruitment, and refugia. River Research and Applications. John Wiley and Sons Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1002/rra.3396