Restored river-floodplain connectivity promotes riparian tree maintenance and recruitment

Joe Greet, Sarah Fischer, C.J. Walsh, M Sammonds, Jane Catford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Riparian forest loss and degradation due to river-floodplain disconnection is a global problem. Prospects for the maintenance and recruitment of riparian trees via restored flooding can be uncertain, in part due to competition from understorey vegetation and limited availability of tree propagules. In a field-based trial, we assessed the response of a keystone riparian tree to restored flooding, reduced competition and seed addition. We built diversion weirs to reconnect floodplains supporting riparian forest. Using a multiple control-intervention-reference study design with two restored flooding (intervention) sites, two naturally-engaged (reference) and two dry (control) sites, we assessed seedling recruitment of the dominant tree, Eucalyptus camphora, with and without clearance of understorey vegetation and with and without seed addition. We also assessed the growth of extant trees using dendrometers and seedfall using funnel traps at all six sites. Our weirs resulted in extensive flooding of the adjacent floodplain, while control sites remained dry. Flooding increased seed germination, seedling establishment, tree growth and seedfall. However, seed germination benefits were only realised where understorey vegetation was cleared and seed was added. Seedling establishment was also limited by dry summer conditions, except where flooding duration was longest (∼6 months cf. < 3 months). Restored flooding via river-floodplain reconnection is likely to promote the rehabilitation of riparian forests degraded by flow regulation or stream modification through benefits at multiple tree life-history stages. However, widespread tree recruitment may require complementary works that reduce competition via clearing of understorey vegetation and alleviate seed limitation by direct seeding or planting.

Original languageEnglish
Article number119952
JournalFOREST ECOLOGY AND MANAGEMENT
Volume506
Early online date16 Dec 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2022

Keywords

  • Riparian wetland forest
  • Tree recruitment
  • Environmental flows
  • Yellingbo nature conservation reserve
  • Australia
  • River-floodplain connectivity
  • Ecosystem restoration
  • Seed addition
  • Flood regime

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