Anthropogenic effects on the biodiversity of riparian wetlands of a northern temperate landscape

D. M. Mensing, S. M. Galatowitsch, J. R. Tester

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105 Scopus citations


Land uses such as forestry and agriculture are presumed to degrade the biodiversity of riparian wetlands in the northern temperate regions of the United States. In order to improve land use decision making in this landscape, floral and faunal communities of 15 riparian wetlands associated with low-order streams were related to their surrounding land cover to establish which organismal groups are affected by anthropogenic disturbance and whether these impacts are scale-specific. Study sites were chosen to represent a gradient of disturbance. Vascular plants of wet meadow and shrub carr communities, aquatic macro-invertebrates, amphibians, fish and birds were surveyed, and total abundance, species richness and Shannon diversity were calculated. For each site, anthropogenic disturbances were evaluated at local and landscape scales (500, 1000, 2500 and 5000 m from the site and the site catchment) from field surveys and a geographic information system (GIS). Land use data were grouped into six general land use types: urban, cultivated, rangeland, forest, wetland and water: Shrub carr vegetation, bird and fish diversity and richness generally decrease with increasing cultivation in the landscape. Amphibian abundance decreases and fish abundance increases as the proportions of open water and rangeland increases; bird diversity and richness increase with forest and wetland extent in the landscape. Wet meadow vegetation, aquatic macro-invertebrates, amphibians and fish respond to local disturbances or environmental conditions. Shrub carr vegetation, amphibians and birds are influenced by land use at relatively small landscape scales (500 and 1000 m), and fish respond to land use at larger landscape scales (2500, 5000 m and the catchment). Effective conservation planning for these riparian wetlands requires assessment of multiple organismal groups, different types of disturbance and several spatial scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)349-377
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1998

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was funded by the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources, US Geological Survey - Water Resources Research Institute and the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The authors thank Bruce Carlson and Jill Hoffman for assistance in the field and Steven Moe and Diane Whited for their co-ordination of the biotic surveys and land use analysis, respectively. The authors also thank Bruce Vondracek for reviewing early drafts of this manuscript, Frank Martin for statistical advice, Mike Riggs for leech identification and Jay Hatch for fish identification.


  • Amphibians
  • Assessment
  • Birds
  • Fish
  • Invertebrates
  • Land use
  • Riparian
  • Vegetation
  • Wetland


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