Publication #11
Lozanovska, I. (2020). Functional diversity as indicator of ecosystem functioning in Mediterranean riparian forests. Ph.D. thesis, Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal   Abstract: Riparian forests are ecosystems of high biodiversity and complexity driven by diverse environmental factors and increasingly threaten by anthropogenic pressures. Understanding and predicting vegetation responses to these factors have become one of the most challenging tasks in riparian ecology. This thesis aims to analyze the functional diversity responses of the Mediterranean riparian forests affected by multiple stressors to give insights into ecosystem functioning. The specific objectives were: (i) to assess the worldwide application of functional trait-based approaches in riparian forests; (ii) to determine the key habitat and regional environmental factors that influence the functional diversity of different forests; (iii) to assess the functional diversity patterns of aquatic plants and riparian woody vegetation to streamflow regulation. The results showed that the functional diversity concept has a long history of evolution. Its application to riparian forests has been increasing in the last two decades, with guild approaches becoming more popular than functional diversity indices. Functional richness is the most applied index in riparian plant studies. Amongst the environmental key-factors, precipitation plays a determinant role on the functional diversity of Mediterranean riparian forests, though especially pronounced for Mediterranean shrublands due to their low functional redundancy. Streamflow regulation can foster diverse stress-related functional strategies in contrasting biomes (boreal and Mediterranean), resulting in diverse functional diversity patterns. This result is likely related to a long legacy of adaptations to natural hydrological stress and to the magnitude of streamflow regulation. Further, diverse types of streamflow regulation (run-of-river dams and storage reservoirs) impair differently the cover and functional diversity of bryophytes, vascular macrophytes and riparian woody vegetation. The observed patterns of functional diversity can inform on the conservation status of the Mediterranean riparian forests and allow anticipating the vulnerability of the riparian ecosystems to future changes, which can guide mitigation, conservation or restoration plans.
Publication #10
Rivaes, R., Couto, J.S., Schmidt, L., Delicado, A., Aguiar, F.C. (2022). The influence of river regulation on the affinity for nature and perceptions of local populations. Journal of Environmental Management 321: 115992. DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2022.115992 Abstract: Rivers are powerful systems supporting human civilization, but despite the enormous dependence on rivers by humans, this does not stop them to assault rivers in the most varied ways. Such dependency determines the establishment of strong river flow-human relationships, and river degradation the prompting of health and non-tangible complications for humans. This work assesses how river regulation, interacting with sociodemographic characteristics, influences the affinity for nature and the perception of humans regarding its effects on river systems. Increased affinity for nature and clearer perceptions about the effects of river regulation improve emotive connection with nature and promote pro-environmental concerns towards a more sustainable water management. Two case studies were selected with different river regulation types (run-of-river and storage reservoir). In each one, the affinity for nature and social perceptions were assessed via telephone-assisted questionnaire surveys carried out in 2020 using 402 randomly selected numbers of local human communities living in its influence areas. Results showed that despite river regulation, communities remain connected to the river system with well-established flow-human relationships. Nonetheless, these relationships have changed due to socioeconomic and cultural changes over time. Significant differences were found in educational attainment and age regarding the affinity for nature. On the other hand, gender differs significantly regarding both the affinity for nature and how the river regulation affect perception, highlighting a gender gap motivated by social and cultural customs passed throughout generations. The lower education level of women and less frequent use of the river acts as a barrier to their perception of river ecosystems and the regulation effects. The affinity for nature and the perception of ecosystems changes by local populations were also significantly different according to the river regulation type, where residents near the run-of-river dam present less affinity for nature. Notwithstanding, the perceptions of local communities were in general in accordance with the scientific knowledge on rivers’ condition. Finally, this work highlights the necessity for education through schools, local communities, municipalities and families, providing conditions for dedication and time to nature and promoting environmental knowledge through direct experience.
Publication #9
Rivaes, R. P., Feio, M. J., Almeida, S. F. P., Calapez, A. R., Sales, M., Gebler, D., Lozanovska, I., Aguiar, F. C. (2021). River ecosystem endangerment from climate change-driven regulated flow regimes. Science of The Total Environment, 151857. DOI:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.151857 Abstract: Major threats of freshwater systems are river damming and habitat degradation, further amplified by climate change, another major driver of biodiversity loss. This study aims to understand the effects of climate change, and its repercussions on hydropower production, on the instream biota of a regulated river. Particularly, it aims to ascertain how mesohabitat availability downstream of hydropower plants changes due to modified flow regimes driven by climate change; how mesohabitat changes will influence the instream biota; and if instream biota changes will be similar within and between biological groups. We used a mesohabitat-level ecohydraulic approach with four biological elements – macrophytes, macroalgae, diatoms and macroinvertebrates – to encompass a holistic ecosystem perspective of the river system. The ecological preferences of the biological groups for specific mesohabitats were established by field survey. The mesohabitat availability in three expected climate change-driven flow regime scenarios was determined by hydrodynamic modeling. The biota abundance/cover was computed for the mesohabitat indicator species of each biological group. Results show that climate-changed flow regimes are characterized by a significant water shortage during summer months already for 2050. Accordingly, the regulated rivers' hydraulics are expected to change towards more homogeneous flow conditions where run habitats should prevail. As a result, the biological elements are expected to face abundance/cover modifications ranging from decreases of 76% up to 67% increase, depending on the biological element and indicator taxa. Diatoms seem to endure the greatest range of modifications while macrophytes the slightest (15% decrease to 38% increase). The greatest modifications would occur on decreasing abundance/cover responses. Such underlies an important risk to fluvial biodiversity in the future, indicting climate change as a significant threat to the fluvial system in regulated rivers.
Publicação #8
Calapez, A. R., Serra, S. R. Q., Rivaes R., Aguiar, F. C., Feio, M. J. (2021). Influence of river regulation and instream habitat on invertebrate assemblage’ structure and function. Science of the Total Environment 794: 148696. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.148696 Abstract: Dams modify geomorphology, water quantity, quality and timing of stream flows affecting ecosystem functioning and aquatic biota. In this study, we addressed the structural and functional macroinvertebrate community alterations in different instream mesohabitats of two Portuguese rivers impaired by dams. We sampled macroinvertebrates in riffles, runs and pools of river sites downstream of the dams (i.e. regulated; n = 24) and in sites without the influence of the dams (i.e. unregulated; n = 7), assessing a total of 64 mesohabitats, following late spring-early summer regular flows. We found a distinct taxonomic structure and trait composition of macroinvertebrate assemblages between regulated and unregulated flow sites, and also between mesohabitats in which the differences were more evident. When analysing each mesohabitat individually, the effect of flow regulation was detected only in run-type mesohabitats for both taxonomic and trait composition, leading us to infer that a selective macroinvertebrate assessment on run mesohabitats would be a valuable contribution to detect regulated flow effects on ecosystems impaired by dams. Additionally, there is evidence that respiration and locomotion traits could be effective tools to identify damming flow alterations. This study supports that the quality assessments of rivers impacted by dams could benefit from a sampling approach focused on run mesohabitats and the detection of some key traits, which would improve assessment accuracy.
Publicação #7
Rivaes, R. P., Feio, M. J., Almeida, S. F. P., Vieira, C., Calapez, A. R., Mortágua, A., Gebler, D., Lozanovska, I., Aguiar, F. C. (2020). Multi-biologic group analysis for an ecosystem response to longitudinal river regulation gradients. Science of The Total Environment, 767. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.144327   Abstract: This work assesses the effects of river regulation on the diversity of different instream and riparian biological communities along a relieve gradient of disturbance in regulated rivers. Two case studies in Portugal were used, with different river regulation typology (downstream of run-of-river and reservoir dams), where regulated and free-flowing river stretches were surveyed for riparian vegetation, macrophytes, bryophytes, macroalgae, diatoms and macroinvertebrates. The assessment of the regulation effects on biological communities was approached by both biological and functional diversity analysis. Results of this investigation endorse river regulation as a major factor differentiating fluvial biological communities through an artificial environmental filtering that governs species assemblages by accentuating species traits related to river regulation tolerance. Communities' response to regulation gradient seem to be similar and insensitive to river regulation typology. Biological communities respond to this regulation gradient with different sensibilities and rates of response, with riparian vegetation and macroinvertebrates being the most responsive to river regulation and its gradient. Richness appears to be the best indicator for general fluvial ecological quality facing river regulation. Nevertheless, there are high correlations between the biological and functional diversity indices of different biological groups, which denotes biological connections indicative of a cascade of effects leading to an indirect influence of river regulation even on non-responsive facets of communities' biological and functional diversities. These results highlight the necessary holistic perspective of the fluvial system when assessing the effects of river regulation and the proposal of restoration measures.

Publicação #5                                                                                                                                                                       Lozanovska, I., Bejarano, M.D., Martins, M. J., Nilsson, C., Ferreira, M.T., Aguiar, F.C. (2020). Functional diversity of riparian woody vegetation is less affected by river regulation in the Mediterranean than boreal region. Frontiers in Plant Science 11:857. Abstract: River regulation may filter out riparian plants often resulting in reduced functional diversity, i.e., in the range of functions that organisms have in communities and ecosystems. There is, however, little empirical evidence about the magnitude of such reductions in different regions. We investigated the functional diversity patterns of riparian woody vegetation to streamflow regulation in boreal Sweden and Mediterranean Portugal using nine plant functional traits and field data from 109 sampling sites. We evaluated changes in mean plant functional traits as well as in indices of multidimensional functional traits, i.e., functional richness (FRic) and functional redundancy (FRed) within regions and between free-flowing and regulated river reaches. We found that regulation significantly reduced functional diversity in Sweden but not in Portugal. In Sweden, the increased magnitude of variations in water flow and water level in summer, the prolonged duration of extreme hydrological events, the increased frequency of high-water pulses, and the rate of change in water conditions were the likely main drivers of functional diversity change. Small riparian plant species with tiny leaves, poorly lignified stems, and shallow root systems were consistently associated with regulated sites in the boreal region. In Portugal, the similar functional diversity values for free-flowing and regulated rivers likely stem from the smaller streamflow alterations by regulation combined with the species legacy adaptations to the Mediterranean natural hydrological regimes. We conclude that streamflow regulation may reduce the functional diversity of riparian woody vegetation, but the magnitude of these effects will vary depending on the adaptations of the local flora and the patterns of streamflow disturbances. Our study provides insights into functional diversity patterns of riparian woody vegetation affected by regulation in contrasting biomes and encourages further studies of the functional diversity thresholds for maintaining ecosystems.

Publicação #4                                                                                                                                                                                                Tenna Riis, Mary Kelly-Quinn, Francisca C Aguiar, Paraskevi Manolaki, Daniel Bruno, María D Bejarano, Nicola Clerici, María Rosário Fernandes, José C Franco, Neil Pettit, Ana P Portela, Olga Tammeorg, Priit Tammeorg, Patricia M Rodríguez-González, Simon Dufour, Global Overview of Ecosystem Services Provided by Riparian Vegetation, BioScience, biaa041. Abstract: Fluvial riparian vegetation (RV) links fluvial and terrestrial ecosystems. It is under significant pressure from anthropogenic activities, and, therefore, the management and restoration of RV are increasingly important worldwide. RV has been investigated from different perspectives, so knowledge on its structure and function is widely distributed. An important step forward is to convert existing knowledge into an overview easily accessible—for example, for use in decision-making and management. We aim to provide an overview of ecosystem services provided by RV by adopting a structured approach to identify the ecosystem services, describe their characteristics, and rank the importance of each service. We evaluate each service within four main riparian vegetation types adopting a global perspective to derive a broad concept. Subsequently, we introduce a guided framework for use in RV management based on our structured approach. We also identify knowledge gaps and evaluate the opportunities an ecosystem service approach offers to RV management.

Publicação #3                                                                                                                                                                                              Fernandes, M.R.; Aguiar, F.C.; Martins, M.J.; Rico, N.; Ferreira, M.T.; Correia, A.C. Carbon Stock Estimations in a Mediterranean Riparian Forest: A Case Study Combining Field Data and UAV Imagery. Forests 202011, 376.   Abstract: This study aims to estimate the total biomass aboveground and soil carbon stocks in a Mediterranean riparian forest and identify the contribution of the different species and ecosystem compartments to the overall riparian carbon reservoir. We used a combined field and object-based image analysis (OBIA) approach, based on unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) multispectral imagery, to assess C stock of three dominant riparian species. A linear discriminator was designed, based on a set of spectral variables previously selected in an optimal way, permitting the classification of the species corresponding to every object in the study area. This made it possible to estimate the area occupied by each species and its contribution to the tree aboveground biomass (AGB). Three uncertainty levels were considered, related to the trade-off between the number of unclassified and misclassified objects, leading to an error control associated with the estimated tree AGB. We found that riparian woodlands dominated by Acacia dealbata Link showed the highest average carbon stock per unit area (251 ± 90 tC ha−1) followed by Alnus glutinosa (L.) Gaertner (162 ± 12 tC ha−1) and by Salix salviifolia Brot. (73 ± 17 tC ha−1), which are mainly related to the stem density, vegetation development and successional stage of the different stands. The woody tree compartment showed the highest inputs (79%), followed by the understory vegetation (12%) and lastly by the soil mineral layer (9%). Spectral vegetation indices developed to suppress saturation effects were consistently selected as important variables for species classification. The total tree AGB in the study area varies from 734 to 1053 tC according to the distinct levels of uncertainty. This study provided the foundations for the assessment of the riparian carbon sequestration and the economic value of the carbon stocks provided by similar Mediterranean riparian forests, a highly relevant ecosystem service for the regulation of climate change effects.

Publicação #2                                                                                                                                                                                           Rico, N.M.M. 2019. Estimativas de Stock de Carbono em zonas ripárias. Dissertação para a obtenção do Grau de Mestre em Gestão e Conservação de Recursos Naturais, Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisboa, 42 p.                  Abstract: Riparian ecosystems have a great potential for long-term carbon storage and sequestration. There is a growing demand on accurate estimations for the Mediterranean region. In this thesis we estimated the carbon (C) stocks of a Mediterranean riparian forest using field data collected in 2018 in the aboveground, understory and organic and mineral soil components. The study area is located in a 3 km-long reach of a Tagus River tributary, Portugal, SW Europe. Allometric biomass models were developed for the Iberian endemic willow (Salix salviifolia) while available equations were applied for black alder (Alnus glutinosa), silver wattle, (Acacia dealbata), narrow-leafed ash (Fraxinus angustifolia), grey willow (Salix atrocinerea) and black poplar (Populus nigra), using Diameter at Breast Height (DBH) and Total Height (H), recorded in 14 circular sampling plots.
The results show that the riparian areas dominated by Acacia dealbata have the highest average total values (trees + litter + soil) of carbon stock (275 Ct/ha), followed by the areas dominated by Alnus glutinosa (134 Ct/ha) and by Salix salviifolia (97 Ct/ha). The tree component presents the largest contributions (76%) to the total carbon reservoir, followed by the leaf component (14%) and the soil component (10%). The results also show a high variability in the average carbon stock values for the tree component and for the litter, these results being related to the density, the size of the vegetation and the succession stage of the different species present in the riparian forest under study. As for the soil component, the results show a reduced variability possibly explained by the morphological characteristics and the high fluvial dynamics found along the entire stream.
This thesis provided the foundations for the assessment of the riparian carbon sequestration in similar Mediterranean riparian forests, a highly relevant Ecosystem Service for the regulation of climate change effects.

Publicação #1                                                                                                                                                                                     Aguiar, F.C.; Fernandes, M.R.; Martins, M.J.; Ferreira, M.T. 2019. Effects of a Large Irrigation Reservoir on Aquatic and Riparian Plants: A History of Survival and Loss. Water, 11, 2379.                                                    Abstract: Dammed rivers have unnatural stream flows, disrupted sediment dynamics, and rearranged geomorphologic settings. Consequently, fluvial biota experiences disturbed functioning in the novel ecosystems. The case study is the large irrigation reservoir Alqueva in Guadiana River, Southern Iberia. The study area was divided into three zones: upstream and downstream of the dam and reservoir. For each zone, species composition and land use and land cover (LULC) were compared before and after the Alqueva Dam implementation. Data consist of aquatic and riparian flora composition obtained from 46 surveys and the area (%) of 12 classes of LULC obtained in 90 riverine sampling units through the analysis of historical and contemporary imagery. There was an overall decrease of several endemic species and on the riparian shrublands and aquatic stands, although differences in the proportion of functional groups were not significant. Nevertheless, compositional diversity shows a significant decline in the upstream zone while landscape diversity shows an accentuated reduction in the reservoir area and downstream of the dam, which is likely related to the loss of the rocky habitats of the ‘old’ Guadiana River and the homogenization of the riverscape due to the irrigation intensification. The mitigation of these critical changes should be site-specific and should rely on the knowledge of the interactions between surrounding lands, ecological, biogeomorphologic, and hydrological components of the fluvial ecosystems.