The spatio-temporal heterogeneity of a meandering part of the Allier river was studied by analysing ecotope composition and dynamics using a series of aerial images covering a period of 46 years (1954-2000). The ecotope dynamics was exemplified by two time series showing rejuvenating hydro-geomorphological processes, i.e., meander progression, meander cut-off and channel shift. The mean rejuvenation rate was 33.8 ha per 5 years for the 5.5 km long study area. The ecotope transition rates varied from 18% surface area change per 5 years to 58.7% surface area change per 5 years for pioneer vegetation. The combination of hydro-geomorphological processes and ecological succession resulted in a temporal diversity of the riparian area. In the year 2000 half of the total riparian landscape was 14 years or younger and 23% was not rejuvenated in 46 years. Eighty percent of the pioneer vegetation was found on young soils (<14 years) while more than 50% of the surface area of low dynamic ecotopes like bush and side channels was located on parts, which were stable for more than 46 years. Examining the relation between river stretch size and ecotope diversity showed that the ecotope diversity remained stable above a stretch size of 1.5 meander lengths for the years 1978, 1985 and 2000. The spatial and temporal analysis of the study area showed evidence supporting the steady state or meta-climax hypotheses, but influences of long-term processes on landscape composition were also found. Some implications for floodplain management are discussed.

Aerial photographs, Allier river, Ecotope dynamics, Floodplain vegetation, GIS, Meandering, Meta-climax, Rejuvenation, Steady state mosaic, Succession, Transition rate,
Department of Sociology

Geerling, R.A, Ragas, A.M.J, Leuven, R.S.E.W, van den Berg, J.H, Breedveld, M, Liefhebber, D, & Smits, A.J.M. (2006). Succession and rejuvenation in floodplains along the river Allier (France). In Hydrobiologia (Vol. 565, pp. 71–86). doi:10.1007/s10750-005-1906-6