Amphibian diversity and nestedness in a dynamic floodplain river (Tagliamento, NE-Italy)
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Amphibian distribution and assemblage structure were investigated along the last morphologically intact river corridor in Central Europe (Tagliamento). Thirteen taxa were identified with Rana latastei and Bufo bufo being the predominant species. In the main study reach, a 2 km2 dynamic island-braided floodplain in the middle section of the river, 130 water bodies were delineated that were situated either in the active floodplain (82 sites) or in the adjacent riparian forest (48 sites). Results demonstrated that the active floodplain increased appreciably the available habitat for amphibians, despite frequent disturbances by floods or droughts. Amphibian richness within a given habitat was significantly correlated with distance from vegetated islands, fish density, and water temperature. In the active floodplain, species distribution was highly predictable, exhibiting nearly perfect nestedness, suggesting that selective colonisation and extinction processes predominated. The degree of nestedness was much higher than in the adjacent riparian forest or in regulated floodplains in Central Europe. Results clearly emphasise that amphibians can exploit the entire hydrodynamic gradient, except the main channel. In the active floodplain, vegetated islands and large woody debris are important, directly and indirectly, in maintaining both habitat and amphibian diversity and density in this gravel-bed river.
Key wordsbraided river Bufo bufo conservation disturbance indicator species island large wood population parafluvial pond Rana latastei restoration
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