Biogeomorphological floodplain dynamics along a degradation gradient of an Alpine river

Thomas C. Wagner, Romy Woellner, Veronika Kloska, Johannes Kollmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Channel migration, furcation, and vegetation succession are characteristic processes of braided gravel rivers in Alpine regions. These are associated with a frequent turnover of large parts of the active floodplain. However, more than one century of river regulation has reduced or destroyed most of these ecosystem dynamics. More recently, there have been attempts to restore at least some sections of degraded rivers, while there is little monitoring of the biogeomorphological dynamics of such rivers. Thus, we did a four-year analysis of four representative sections of the upper River Isar in Southern Germany differing in their degree of naturalness. Dynamics of channels, gravel bars, and vegetation were recorded by drone images, and braiding and gravel indices were calculated. When comparing the near-natural, semi-natural, degraded or restored sections, there was a gradient of decreasing channel migration, gravel bank expansion, and bank erosion due to a reduced turnover frequency. Biogeomorphological variation among years correlated with log peak discharge within the four sections. In addition, the cover and height growth of vegetation increased with river degradation, and channel migration was positively related to the braiding index. The total turnover of the active river corridor and of the vegetation were positively correlated with log peak discharge within the four sections. The floodplain dynamics of the restored section were improved compared to the degraded section but did not reach a near-natural state. Thus, Alpine river sections with contrasting degrees of naturalness differ in terms of habitat turnover and vegetation succession, and these characteristics can only partially be restored by local measures.

Original languageEnglish
JournalRiver Research and Applications
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Keywords

  • braided river
  • channel migration
  • floodplain turnover
  • gravel index
  • patch dynamics
  • river restoration

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