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  • Author: Flora Andreucci x
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Marcella Mogna, Marco Cantonati, Flora Andreucci, Nicola Angeli, Graziella Berta and Luca Miserere

Abstract

Springs are unique but understudied habitats. Diatom communities have received some attention but have remained largely unknown in the south-western Alps. We therefore studied the springs of the south-western extreme of the Alpine mountain range. We analysed epilithic and epiphytic assemblages in 48 springs of different ecomorphological types, located on contrasting lithological substrata (carbonate/siliceous). Moreover, phytosociological relevés were carried out for carbonate springs. The diatom flora consisted of 223 taxa. Most (198) of the taxa were included in the Red List, and 12.5% belonged to threatened categories. Characteristic spring taxa (crenophiles) were present. The ecological preferences of crenophilous diatom species described in the eastern Alps were confirmed. Diatom species characteristic of the lake-littoral zone were found in pool springs. We observed no significant differences in species richness and diversity between epilithic and epiphytic assemblages, but some species showed a preference for bryophytes, and five occurred in the epibryon only. As regards moisture conditions, 15% of the taxa occurred on wet or temporarily dry sites, and 4% lived mostly outside water bodies. The main environmental factors influencing diatom assemblages were pH, conductivity, altitude, and shading. The carbonate-substratum crenic vegetation was composed of a mixture of vascular plants and bryophytes, which find their ecological optimum in springs. Bryophyte cover was dominant, with the most abundant taxa belonging to the genus Palustriella. The vegetation corresponded to the Cratoneuretum commutati association.