Physical controls and patterns of recruitment on the Drôme River (SE France): An analysis based on a chronosequence of high resolution aerial imagery

Friday, 19 December 2014: 11:05 AM
Hervé Piegay1, John C Stella2 and Bianca Raepple1, (1)Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - CNRS, Lyon, France, (2)SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Forest and Natural Resources Management, Syracuse, NY, United States
Along with the recent recognition of the role of vegetation in influencing channel hydraulics, and thus fluvial morphology comes the need for scientific research on vegetation recruitment and its control factors. Flood disturbance is known to create a suitable physical template for the establishment of woody pioneers. Sapling recruitment patterns and underlying physical controls were investigated on a 5 km braided reach of the Drôme River in South-eastern France, following the 2003 50-year flood event. The approach was based on the analysis of a chronosequence of high resolution aerial images acquired yearly between 2005 and 2011, complemented by airborne LiDAR data and field observations. The study highlights how physical complexity induced by natural variations in hydro-climatic and consequently hydro-geomorphic conditions facilitates variable patterns of recruitment. The initial post-flood vegetative units, which covered up to 10% of the total active channel area in 2005, was seen to double within six years. The variability of hydro-climatic conditions was reflected in the temporal and spatial patterns of recruitment, with a pronounced peak of vegetation expansion in 2007 and a decreasing trend following higher flows in 2009. Recruitment was further seen to be sustained in a variety of geomorphic units, which showed different probabilities and patterns of recruitment. Active channels were the prominent geomorphic unit in terms of total biomass development, while in-channel wood units showed the highest probability for recruitment. Vegetation recruitment understanding is becoming crucial for predicting fluvial system evolution in different hydroclimatic contexts. Applied, these findings may contribute to improve efforts made in the field of flood risk management, as well as restoration planning.