Recognition of key regions for restoration of phytoplankton communities in the Huai River basin, China

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Journal Article
Journal of Hydrology, 2012, 420-421 pp. 292 - 300
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Healthy phytoplankton communities are the basis of healthy water ecosystems, and form the foundation of many freshwater food webs. Globally many freshwater ecosystems are degraded because of intensive human activities, so water ecosystem restoration is a burning issue worldwide. Selection of key regions for phytoplankton-related restoration is crucial for an effective aquatic eco-restoration. This paper presents a practical method for identification of key regions for phytoplankton-related restoration, using random forests (RFs) method to cluster sites based on dominance, biodiversity, water chemistry and ecological niche. We sampled phytoplankton for species richness and relative abundance and water quality in the Huai River basin (HRB), China to determine the phytoplankton communities' composition and structure and characterize of their ecological niches. A wider mean niche breadth of a species usually leads to a greater overlap with the niche of other species. Using these data and water quality indices, we identified the key regions for phytoplankton-related river restoration activities. Results indicate that our method for recognition of key regions is effective and practical and its application to the HRB identified the Northern Plain area as the key region for restoration. This area is severely polluted and contributes significantly to the HRB phytoplankton communities. Phytoplankton in this region is highly adaptable to environmental change and therefore will be relatively unharmed by environmental instability induced by restoration measures. During restoration, indices of water temperature, total phosphorus and chemical oxygen demand can be altered with little negative influence on phytoplankton communities, but measures that increase ammonia-nitrogen concentration would be highly detrimental. These results will provide valuable information for policy makers and stakeholders in water ecosystem restoration and sustainable basin management in the HRB. © 2011.
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