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Multi-scale interactions between riparian vegetation and hydrogeomorphic processes (the lower Allier River)

Abstract : N ecosystems, such as rivers, salt marshes, mangroves, coastal dunes which are exposed to frequent and regular hydrogeomorphic fluxes (i.e. physical disturbances), feedbacks between geomorphology (water, sediment and landforms) and plants (e.g. Populus nigra L., Salix alba L., Salix purpurea L. in rivers) can occur. Vegetation esta¬blishment is controlled by hydrogeomorphic processes which in turn are modulated by vegetation. Such feedbacks control riparian ecosystem dynamics. In this thesis, we addressed two main questions in an effort to better understand feedbacks between riparian vegetation and hydrogeomorphic processes: (i) How does riparian vegetation respond to hydrogeomorphic constraints? (ii) How, and to what extent, do established engineer plants affect fluvial geomorphology? We studied these questions through a nested multi-scale approach from landscape pattern to plant trait scales on the dynamic wandering Allier River (France). We tested the applicability of the method of photogrammetry to quantify the response and the effect of riparian vegetation and biogeomorphic feedbacks at different spatio-temporal scales (i.e. corridor, alluvial bar and individual). At the corridor scale, we searched for the topographic signature of riparian vegetation in the landscape, using photogrammetric and LiDAR data. At the intermediate alluvial bar scale, we investigated the aptitude of three dominant pioneer riparian Salicaceae species (P. nigra, S. purpurea and S. alba) to establish and to act as ecosystem engineers by trap¬ping fine sediment. At the finest, plant trait scale, we quantified the relation between response trait attributes of young P. nigra plants and their exposure to three different levels of mechanical stress (a highly exposed bar-head, a less exposed bar-tail, a chute channel). We identified some difficulties or failures to properly apply photogrammetry in biogeomorphic feedback studies. However, photogrammetry appeared as a useful tool to quantify a set of relevant parameters to respond to fundamental research questions concerning biogeomorphic feedbacks at the three nested spatial scales. At the broadest, the topographic signature of vegetation was not easy to capture because of the complex shifting mosaic of landforms of the Allier River. However, by focusing on more connec¬ted, restricted areas (i.e. alluvial bars), the signature of vegetation could be captured. It seems to increase with increasing vegetation height corresponding to the evolutionary phases of the fluvial biogeomorphic succession (FBS) model. At the intermediate, alluvial bar scale, biogeomorphic feedbacks could be well identified. The capacity of riparian plants to establish and act as ecosystem engineers depended both on species and their physiognomy, their age and their location on alluvial bars. At the finest, individual plant scale, we captured the contrasting morphological and biomechanical response of P. nigra to variable mechanical stress exposure from a trait perspective. In all hierarchical levels, scale-related biogeomorphic feedbacks were detected and described in a conceptual model. The three scales were considered as cycles composed of four different phases, which can have a variable temporality. The broadest spatio-temporal scale represents the evolution over several decades of the landscape mosaic resulting from the balance between constructive (vegetation establishment, growth and succession) and destruc¬tive (floods) forces. [...]
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Borbála Hortobágyi. Multi-scale interactions between riparian vegetation and hydrogeomorphic processes (the lower Allier River). Geography. Université Clermont Auvergne, 2018. English. ⟨NNT : 2018CLFAL001⟩. ⟨tel-02008339⟩

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