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Abiotic controls of the germination, establishment and species distribution of woody riparian vegetation

Tensiometers in floodplain sites on the Rivers Isere, Drac and Drome, monitored groundwater conditions associated with fluctuations in river level. The aim was to explore evidence for changing floodplain recharge given intensive water management (eg for hydro-power). The project allowed progressive refinement of the design of tensiometers, and data capture methods.

Plot-based study occurred of germination and seedling growth of woody riparian species (alnus incana and populus nigra), to improve understanding of the hydrological influences on these processes, and gain knowledge to aid in manipulating river flows to maintain biodiversity on floodplains.

Greenhouse experiments were conducted using rhizopods (groups of soil-filled tubes surrounding a water reservoir in which the water table is manipulated to observe the response of seedlings in the tubes). Results showed the sensitivity of seedlings to water table recession in different soils, and provided rigorous data with which to aid interpretation of field ecology.

Finally, 1D and 2D versions of a groundwater hydrology model were developed, to simulate the hydrological behaviour of the rhizopods and the field sites, and to provide a sound basis for extrapolating to other conditions of soils and rates of water table lowering, and to help in assessing the likely behaviour of riparian tree species in other sites subjected to water management.

Reported by

University of Cambridge
Downing Place
CB2 3EN Cambridge
United Kingdom
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