Plant and Soil

, Volume 278, Issue 1–2, pp 95–105 | Cite as

Stabilising Characteristics of New Zealand Indigenous Riparian Colonising Plants

  • M. Marden
  • D. Rowan
  • C. Phillips


This paper presents selected results on the above- and below-ground growth performance of twelve indigenous woody species commonly found growing naturally in unstable riparian slope and/or bank environments throughout New Zealand. This study was needed because little information exists on the effectiveness of New Zealand’s indigenous riparian plant species for slope and stream bank stabilisation. By examining the growth performance of selected riparian species during the first 5 years following establishment, we provide valuable insights into the likely strengths and limitations of individual species at maturity and, therefore, into their overall potential usefulness, singularly and/or as mixed plantings, for future riparian stabilisation projects. For all species, their root systems are typically shallow and confined to the uppermost 31 cm of soil. Root spread (mean maximum diameter) increased with increasing age with interspecies differences, by age 5 years, ranging from between ~1 and 2.5 m. At age 5 years the mean root biomass, for all species combined, was 1.2 kg/plant, and averaged ~23% of total plant biomass. Changes in the allocation of biomass for root and shoot growth appear to be species and age dependent. The results of this study indicate that most have above- and below-ground growth attributes well suited to colonising steep and unstable riparian slopes where shallow soil failure is prevalent and/or where stream banks are rocky with skeletal soils. All form part of the early plant succession. Once established, and in the absence of grazing, they are relatively fast growing. The effectiveness of riparian restoration programmes using indigenous species, though potentially high for low-order stream, will be limited by their relatively shallow-rooted habit for bank stabilisation on larger rivers without the prior installation of structural protection works.


indigenous riparian plants root growth and morphology soil and streambank reinforcement 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Landcare Research LtdGisborneNew Zealand
  2. 2.Landcare ResearchLincolnNew Zealand

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