Bertuzzo, Enrico (2008) River Networks as Ecological Corridors. [Ph.D. thesis]
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River networks and the transport processes that take place in them provide a natural integrating framework for the study of hydrologic, biologic and ecologic processes in river basins. The profound commonalities existing among all types of river basins and their drainage networks, together with the key role that hese structures play in the above dynamics, encourage the search for general behaviours. The aim of this work is to put the basis for a general framework for the analysis of complex system associated with dendritic landscapes. In particular we investigate how the environmental matrix constituted by the ecological corridors defined by the river network could affect patterns and dynamics of the system itself. We first analyze invasion, an ecological process that describe the growth and the spreading of a species in a new territory, finding that the speed
of colonization is strongly affected by the structure of the network and the bias of the transport. These hydrological controls provide a null model for the comparison with more complex ecologic processes like the spreading of waterborne diseases. We compare epidemiological data from the real world with the spacetime evolution of infected individuals predicted by a theoretical scheme based on reactive transport of infective agents through a biased network portraying actual river pathways. The scheme is remarkably capable of reproducing actual outbreaks and shows that spatial distribution of different communities and how they are interconnected trough the river network, could indeed affect epidemic dynamics. The previous models are then generalized studying river biogeography.
We analyse how the dispersion and growth of several species that compete for the same resources control river biodiversity. We propose a neutral metacommunity model that incorporates network structure. The scheme, along with a proper description
of the habitat capacity distribution, is able to simultaneously reproduce several biodiversity patterns of the Missisiippi-Missouri freshwater fishes biota. Overall the results represent a first step toward the understanding of general hydrologic controls on complex ecologic systems.
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