Turbulence-mediated facilitation of resource uptake in patchy stream macrophytes

Loreta Cornacchia (Corresponding Author), Sofia Licci, Heidi Nepf, Daphne van der Wal, Andrew Folkard, Johan van de Koppel, Sara Puijalon, Tjeerd J. Bouma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


Many landscapes are characterized by a patchy, rather than homogeneous, distribution of vegetation. Often this patchiness is composed of single-species patches with contrasting traits, interacting with each other. To date, it is unknown whether patches of different species affect each other's uptake of resources by altering hydrodynamic conditions, and how this depends on their spatial patch configuration. Patches of two contrasting aquatic macrophyte species (i.e., dense canopy-forming Callitriche and sparse canopy-forming Groenlandia) were grown together in a racetrack flume and placed in different patch configurations. We measured 15 NH 4 + uptake rates and hydrodynamic properties along the centerline and the lateral edge of both patches. When the species with a taller, denser canopy (Callitriche) was located upstream of the shorter, sparser species (Groenlandia), it generated turbulence in its wake that enhanced nutrient uptake for the sparser Groenlandia. At the same time, Callitriche benefited from being located at a leading edge where it was exposed to higher mean velocity, as its canopy was too dense for turbulence to penetrate from upstream. Consistent with this, we found that ammonium uptake rates depended on turbulence level for the sparse Groenlandia and on mean flow velocity for the dense Callitriche, but Total Kinetic Energy was the best descriptor of uptake rates for both species. By influencing turbulence, macrophyte species interact with each other through facilitation of resource uptake. Hence, heterogeneity due to multispecific spatial patchiness has crucial implications for both species interactions and aquatic ecosystem functions, such as nitrogen retention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)714-727
Number of pages14
JournalLimnology and oceanography
Issue number2
Early online date2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019


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