Strategies to restore floodplain vegetation after abandonment of human activities
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Restoring the flooding‐related disturbance regime by removing and setting back flood defenses (channel widening) is the most efficient strategy for recovering riparian plant communities in floodplains formerly impacted by human activities such as agriculture, mining, and forestry. Removing flood defenses is generally not socially accepted, and alternative recovery strategies must be explored. We assessed vegetation establishment on 33 sites in the floodplains of the Middle Ebro River and three of its tributaries (NE Spain) where restoration approaches applied in the last 20 years include channel widening, floodplain excavation, and abandonment of agriculture, gravel extraction, and hybrid poplar plantations, with and without plantation of native species. Using analysis of similarity and ordinations, we found that channel widening led to plant communities closely resembling those found on natural gravel bars, including new recruits of keystone tree species. Excavation of the floodplain as the restoration approach resulted in pioneer, non‐strictly riparian communities. Abandonment of agricultural land or clearing of poplar plantations resulted in alternative stable states predominating, regardless of time elapsed since restoration and whether poles of native species were planted. However, forest‐like communities relatively similar to mature, natural riparian references were attainable when hybrid poplars were allowed to resprout after clear‐cutting, or after the human activities were abandoned and trees were not cut. Combining channel widening and assisted revegetation where flood defenses cannot be altered may partially reproduce a mosaic of habitats typical of natural floodplains.
Is part ofRestoration Ecology, 2017, vol. 25, núm. 1, p. 82-91
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