Vegetation in dryland river channels and its interaction with fluvial processes

  • Sandercock P
  • Hooke J
  • Mant J
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Abstract

Vegetation forms a major component of the channel environment of dryland rivers in Mediterranean Europe yet the interactions between vegetation and fluvial processes in dryland river channels have received relatively little attention. Characteristic of dryland channels is a degree of complexity and irregularity in morphology coupled with abrupt changes in patterns of riparian vegetation along their course. This is in contrast to more temperate and humid channels, which show strong downstream trends in morphology and a regularity in the distribution of vegetation across the valley floor. The general effect of vegetation in these channels appears to be to enhance the processes of sedimentation and increase resistance to erosion. However, at high stress levels vegetation may be removed. The limited work that has been undertaken indicates that there is considerable variability in the effect that vegetation has on channel processes, depending on both the magnitude of the flow and characteristics of the vegetation, such as their distribution and positioning within the channel and factors such as plant flexibility, cross-sectional area (blockage ratio), number of stems. Studies of sediment connectivity are beginning to yield new insights into the dynamics of dryland rivers, and in particular the role of vegetation in reducing the connectivity of sediment transfers downstream. Detailed surveying at monitored sites such as is being carried out within the EU-funded project RECONDES is required to study the interactions between vegetation, sediment and flow in dryland rivers of the Mediterranean region. © 2007 SAGE Publications.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Connectivity
  • EU Project RECONDES
  • Ephemeral dryland river channels
  • Erosion and sediment transport
  • Mediterranean
  • Thresholds
  • Vegetation

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Authors

  • Peter J. Sandercock

  • J. M. Hooke

  • J. M. Mant

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