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Effects of the hippopotamus on the chemistry and ecology of a changing watershed [PNAS]

Keywords : diversity, eutrophication, fish, hydrology, invertebrates

par Frédéric Magné - publié le

Hippopotami exert a strong influence on the biogeochemistry and ecology of freshwater ecosystems by excreting terrestrially derived organic matter into these systems. These impacts are likely to be strongly controlled by hydrology. In sub-Saharan Africa, anthropogenic water abstraction and climate change are significantly altering water cycles, often reducing dry-season flow. In this study, we report how hippopotami shape water chemistry and biodiversity patterns in a human-altered river. Importantly, we note that during recently prolonged low-flow periods the influence of the hippopotamus was greatly altered such that its nutrient contributions promoted eutrophication and affected biodiversity. These results highlight the extent to which human modification of environmental systems may unexpectedly alter the impacts of ecologically influential species at multiple scales.

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