The structure and composition of riparian forests were examined along the Tokachi River, northern Japan. Both the hydrogeomorphic gradient and the temporal gradient were analyzed in attempt to explain the present pattern of riparian forests. The stability of floodplain surfaces was estimated on the basis of the elevation above the riverbed and the distance from the river channel. The characteristics of the substratum on which trees were established were also examined by excavation of buried sediment. The results indicated that soil moisture and organic content increased while the size of particles in the substratum decreased with increased elevation and distance from the river channel. Gradient analysis was employed to examine the distribution of dominant species, such as Alnus hirsuta, Toisusu urbaniana, Populus maximowiczii, Picea jezoensis and Abies sachalinensis. The relative dominance of each could be arrayed across the elevation gradient. Although the three broad-leaved pioneers dominated bars and floodplains near the river channel, their modes shifted from lower to higher elevation and amplitudes of distribution curves decreased in the following order: A. hirsuta, T. urbaniana, P. maximowiczii and conifers, which were located on the highest floodplains. Sites could be divided into three classes in terms of stability. There were fewer species at active sites, which favored the three pioneer species, but species richness and diversity increased with stand age. Semi-active and stable sites were more diverse with the establishment of conifers and other broad-leaved trees, which included upland species. However, species richness peaked and then decreased after trees reached 50 to 60 years of age. The growth of dwarf bamboo and the development of conifer-dominant stands impeded the establishment of other species, thereby reducing species richness and diversity in mature stands. Chronologically, floodplains could be differentiated into high- and low-frequency zones of flood disturbance, with pioneer species occupying the former, and late successional species found largely in the latter.
Elevation Flooding frequency Gradient analysis Riparian forest River geomorphology Sediment texture Succession