Resilience of floodplain ecosystems in a semi-arid environment

Colloff,Matthew J.
Baldwin,Darren S.
CSIRO Publishing
Publication Year: 
Implicit to loss of ecosystem resilience is that systems can shift from one stable state to another as a result of disturbance. We present a conceptual model of ecosystem resilience of floodplains and wetlands in semi-arid environments like those of the Murray-Darling Basin. The model is based on a single state characterised by fluctuating wet and dry phases driven by episodic floods and droughts. It might appear that such a single state is inherently unstable, but stability, and the measure of resilience, is conferred by the capacity of floodplains and wetlands to undergo drought and yet return to a functioning wet phase following inundation as well as to undergo flooding and return to the dry phase following flood recession. Floodplains and wetlands are driven by strong, periodic abiotic disturbances and their ecosystem functions and biogeochemical processes are highly rate-limited, spatiotemporally variable and driven by relatively species-poor assemblages of plants and animals adapted to withstand drought and flooding. Extreme drying due to climatic change and over-allocation of water resources represents the primary mechanism via which resilience is lost.
Name of Journal: 
The Rangeland Journal
Resource Type: 
Document Type: 
Journal Issue/Article
Australian Rangeland Society

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