, Volume 714, Issue 1, pp 35-47
Date: 19 Apr 2013

Vegetation dynamics in side-channels reconnected to the Rhine River: what are the main factors controlling communities trajectories after restoration?

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The hydraulic management of large rivers led to a disconnection of side-channels. Restoration works were to reconnect these side-channels to the main course in order to recover hydrological and ecological functions. The aim of the study was to analyze the vegetation dynamics after restoration and to link it to the change in chemical and hydro-geomorphological characteristics. Changes in species richness, cover and composition of the macrophytes communities were studied in nine side-channels of the Rhine river (France) after reconnection which occurred between 1998 and 2006. Vegetation dynamics was surveyed between 2007 and 2011 and compared to the ones of three target side-channels (never disconnected). Three vegetation communities were identified: one characterized by rheophilic species, a second one by mesotrophic species, and a third one by eutrophic species. Distribution of communities depended mainly on the flow velocity and the sediment texture of the side-channels. The floristic composition of communities evolved rapidly and remained stable a few years after restoration. Changes in species richness and cover remained relatively low in all side-channels over the study period. Time after restoration did not affect the dynamics of colonization. Reconnection allowed the restored side-channels to exhibit vegetation dynamics similar to those of the target side-channels.

Handling editor: Sidinei Magela Thomaz