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Soil bioengineering techniques enhance riparian habitat quality and multi-taxonomic diversity in the foothills of the Alps and Jura Mountains

Abstract : Riparian zones have disproportional ecological importance relative to their size. For decades, the functionality of riparian zones has been altered, with detrimental consequences on biodiversity. Recently, riparian zone restoration has become a major issue. When channel mobility cannot be restored and when erosion control is of primary concern, soil bioengineering techniques are often viewed as a compromise solution. We studied 37 riverbanks, from civil engineering to soil bioengineering, plus natural willow stands, in the foothills of the Alps and Jura Mountains. Using a principal component analysis, we first studied whether terrestrial and aquatic habitat variables varied among riverbank stabilization structures and bank stabilization age and built a synthetic index of riparian habitat quality reflecting the multivariate similarity of riverbank sites. Then, using a modelling approach, we tested whether multi-taxonomic diversity responded to changes in habitat quality and to broadscale environmental variables (i.e., climate, hydrology and land cover). Soil bioengineering techniques, especially willow fascines and to lower extend vegetated crib wall, enhanced riparian habitat quality by allowing for a greater richness and density of pioneer tree species but also for a larger cover of high quality aquatic micro-habitats. This increase in riparian habitat quality induced an increase in both terrestrial and aquatic species diversity, highlighting the added-value of soil bioengineering techniques to restore riparian biodiversity. This may confirm that stabilization structures made of willow fascines are better suited than stabilization structures made of artificial substrata to support riparian species. Also, beyond the positive effect of soil bioengineering techniques for riparian biodiversity, we found that climatic, hydrological and land cover variables strongly influenced diversity patterns. Thus, multi-taxonomic diversity decreased along larger rivers and in landscapes dominated by urban areas. This may indicate that the full added value of soil bioengineering techniques for biodiversity will only become apparent if more attention is paid to mitigating the negative impact of human activities in the vicinity of riparian zones and if larger scale environmental parameters are taken into account as early as possible in restoration project. Therefore, we strongly recommend that riverbank restoration projects, based on the active introduction of native pioneer tree species, should be planned at the catchment scale.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, October 26, 2021 - 4:22:36 PM
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P. Janssen, P. Cavaillé, F. Bray, André Evette. Soil bioengineering techniques enhance riparian habitat quality and multi-taxonomic diversity in the foothills of the Alps and Jura Mountains. Ecological Engineering, Elsevier, 2019, 133, pp.1-9. ⟨10.1016/j.ecoleng.2019.04.017⟩. ⟨hal-02610275⟩

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