Boreal Riparian Vegetation Under Climate Change
Riparian zones in boreal areas such as humid landscapes on minerogenic soils are characterized by diverse, productive, and dynamic vegetation which will rapidly react to climate change. Climate-change models predict that in most parts of the boreal region these zones will be affected by various combinations of increased temperature, less seasonal variation in runoff, increased average discharge, changes in groundwater supply, and a more dynamic ice regime. Increasing temperatures will favor invasion of exotic species whereas species losses are likely to be minor. The hydrologic changes will cause a narrowing of the riparian zone and, therefore, locally reduce species richness whereas effects on primary production are more difficult to predict. More shifts between freezing and thawing during winter will lead to increased dynamics of ice formation and ice disturbance, potentially fostering a more dynamic and species-rich riparian vegetation. Restoration measures that increase water retention and shade, and that reduce habitats for exotic plant species adjacent to rivers can be applied especially in streams and rivers that have been channelized or deprived of their riparian forest to reduce the effects of climate change on riparian ecosystems.
Keywordsboreal landscapes climate change free-flowing rivers groundwater ice dynamics plant invasion riparian zones water-level fluctuations
This study was supported by the Swedish research council Formas and the Nordic Council of Ministers. We thank two reviewers for valuable comments on the manuscript.
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