, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 163-173

Historical influence of man on the riparian dynamics of a fluvial landscape

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Man's influence, over the last three centuries, has gradually influenced the dynamics of forest cover along the valley of the Garonne, a seventh order river in Southern France. The vegetation cover of the floodplain depends on topographical levels which govern the frequency and duration of submergence during flooding. Along the valley, forest patches vary from a continuous ribbon of riparian wood along the river to a mosaic of groves towards the upland terraces. In the floodplain, the forest dynamics are influenced by floods, appear to be reversible, and are subject to dominant allogenic processes. On the contrary, forest dynamics on the terraces, which are not influenced by floods, are irreversible and subjected to dominant autogenic processes. Since the end of the 17th century, the structure of riparian woods has been modified by navigation and agriculture leading to a fragmentation of forest cover in the floodplain. Modern agriculture and urbanization have accentuated these tendencies by modifying the hydrologic regime of the river. These historical changes result in a fragmentation of forest cover and a substitution of species in the riparian zone, the forest dynamics being still reversible in the floodplain.