Aquatic Sciences

, Volume 76, Issue 4, pp 465–481 | Cite as

Biomechanical properties and morphological characteristics of lake and river plants: implications for adaptations to flow conditions

  • Oliver Miler
  • Ismail Albayrak
  • Vladimir Nikora
  • Matthew O’Hare
Research Article


Biomechanical properties and morphological characteristics of stems of eight species of submerged aquatic plants were studied to analyse (1) differences between river and lake specimens, (2) seasonal differences between winter/spring and summer/autumn specimens, and (3) change of biomechanical properties and morphological characteristics along the stems. The data show that river macrophytes display not only characteristic biomechanical traits and morphological characteristics specific to their hydraulic habitats, but also distinctive temporal changes due to seasonally varying water temperature, flow velocity, and growth phase. Furthermore, the data reveal differences between lake and river specimens that could be explained by wind exposure of the lake sampling sites and the species-specific flow requirements of the river macrophytes. Biomechanical properties and morphological characteristics varied along the stem with larger cross-sections and a higher resistance against tension and bending forces at the bottom compared to the top parts, being similar for both lake and river specimens. The acquired and analysed stem biomechanical and morphological data contribute to the plant biomechanics database to underpin a wide range of studies in aquatic ecology, river and wetland management.


Plant biomechanics Freshwater macrophytes Lotic plants Lentic plants Plant adaptation strategies Biomechanical traits 



The work was supported by the Leverhulme Trust, Grant F/00152/Z ‘Biophysics of flow-plant interactions in aquatic systems’. The NERC’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology Edinburgh (CEH Edinburgh, UK) supplied field equipment for plant sampling, temperature and velocity measurements. Dr Alfred Akisanya and Jim Gall provided helpful advice on cyclic loading/unloading, bending and tension tests using the Hounsfield Materials testing machine. Timothy Crane, Nana Totoe, Mathieu Beauvais and Shane Coughlan helped with tests.

Supplementary material

27_2014_347_MOESM1_ESM.doc (330 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 330 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Oliver Miler
    • 1
    • 4
  • Ismail Albayrak
    • 2
  • Vladimir Nikora
    • 1
  • Matthew O’Hare
    • 3
  1. 1.School of EngineeringUniversity of AberdeenAberdeenUK
  2. 2.Laboratory of Hydraulics, Hydrology and Glaciology (VAW)ETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  3. 3.Centre for Ecology and Hydrology EdinburghMidlothianUK
  4. 4.Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland FisheriesBerlinGermany

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