Links between lateral riparian vegetation zones and flow

Reinecke, Michiel Karl (2013-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Riparian vegetation communities that occur along perennial rivers are structured in lateral zones that run parallel to river flow. This dissertation investigated the structure of South African riparian vegetation communities along perennial, single-thread headwater streams. The central assumption was that lateral zones result from differential species’ responses to changing abiotic factors along a lateral gradient up the river bank. It was first necessary to establish the pattern of zones and whether this pattern occurs repetitively and predictably on different rivers in different biomes. Since the flow regime is considered to be the master variable that controls the occurrence of lateral zones, the link between flow as the major abiotic driver and the distribution of plants in zones was determined. Predictions were made with respect to how variable flow may influence phenological traits, particularly with respect to seed dispersal, and physiological tolerances to drying out and were tested. The existence of lateral zones at reference sites in the Western Cape of South Africa was explored and their vegetation characteristics were described. Plant distribution was related to bank slope, as defined by elevation and distance from the wetted channel edge during summer (dry season) low flow, indicating a direct link to river bank hydraulics. Whether or not the same zonation patterns occur in riparian communities in other parts of South Africa was explored next. The four zones described for Fynbos Riparian Vegetation were evident at all of the other rivers tested, despite major differences in geographic location, vegetation community type, climate and patterns of seasonal flow. The four lateral zones could be separated from each other using a combination of flood recurrence and inundation duration. Functional differences were investigated between three tree species that occur in Fynbos Riparian Vegetation. Functional differences were apparent with respect to timing of seed dispersal, growth in branch length versus girth and three physiological measures of tolerance to drying out; specific leaf area (cm2.g-1), wood density (g.cm-3) and levels of carbon isotopes (δ13C). In order to determine the impact of invasive alien plants and to monitor recovery after clearing, the physical rules devised to help delineate zones were used to locate lateral zones that had been obliterated after invasion and subsequent clearing. At the sites invaded by A. mearnsii plants, the zone delineations showed that invasion started in the lower dynamic zone, where adult and sapling A. mearnsii were most abundant. In un-invaded systems, this zone was the least densely vegetated of the four zones, the most varied in terms of inundation duration and the frequency of inter- and intra-annual floods, and was an area of active recruitment comprised mainly of recruiting seedlings and saplings. An understanding of the functional differences between lateral zones was a common thread at each riparian community that was linked to the annual frequency of inundation and the period, when inundated.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Oewer plantegroei gemeenskappe wat langs standhoudende riviere voorkom is gestruktureer in laterale sones parallel met die rivier vloei. Hierdie verhandeling ondersoek die struktuur van Suid-Afrikaanse oewer plantegroei gemeenskappe langs standhoudende, enkelloop hoof strome. Die sentrale aanname was dat laterale sones vorm as gevolg van verskillende spesies se reaksie teenoor die verandering van abiotiese faktore teen 'n laterale gradiënt met die rivierbank op. Dit was eers nodig om die patroon van die gebiede vas te stel en uit te vind of hierdie patroon herhaaldelik en voorspelbaar binne verskillende riviere in verskillende biome voorkom. Aangesien die vloeiwyse beskou word as die hoof veranderlike wat die teenwoordigheid van laterale sones beheer, is die skakel tussen die vloei, as die belangrikste abiotiese bestuurder, en die verspreiding van plante in sones bepaal. Voorspellings is gemaak met betrekking tot hoe veranderlike vloei fenologiese eienskappe kan beïnvloed, veral met betrekking tot die saad verspreiding, en fisiologiese toleransie teen uitdroog, en is getoets. Die bestaan van laterale sones binne verwysings studie terreine in die Wes-Kaap van Suid- Afrika is ondersoek en hul plantegroei eienskappe is beskryf. Plant verspreiding was verwant aan bank helling, soos gedefinieer deur hoogte en afstand vanaf die nat kanaal rand gedurende somer (droë seisoen) lae vloei, en dui dus op 'n direkte skakel met die rivier bank hidroulika. Of dieselfde sonering patrone voorkom in oewer gemeenskappe in ander dele van Suid-Afrika is volgende verken. Die vier sones beskryf vir fynbos oewer plantegroei was duidelik by al die ander riviere wat ondersoek is, ten spyte van groot verskille in geografiese ligging, plantegroei gemeenskap tipe, klimaat en patrone van seisoenale vloei. Die vier laterale sones kan onderskei word van mekaar deur middel van 'n kombinasie van vloed herhaling en oorstroomde toestand duur. Funksionele verskille is ondersoek tussen drie boom spesies wat voorkom in Fynbos Oewer Plantegroei. Funksionele verskille was duidelik met betrekking tot tydsberekening van saad verspreiding, groei in tak lengte tenoor omtrek, en drie fisiologiese maatstawwe van verdraagsaamheid teenoor uitdroging; spesifieke blaar area (cm2.g-1), hout digtheid (g.cm-3) en vlakke van koolstof isotope (δ13C). Ten einde die impak van indringerplante te bepaal en die herstel na ontbossing te monitor is die fisiese reëls voorheen vasgestel om sones te help baken gebruik om laterale sones, wat vernietig is na indringing en die daaropvolgende ontbossing, te vind. Op die terreine wat deur A. mearnsii indringerplante binnegeval is, het die indeling van sones getoon dat die indringing begin het in die laer dinamiese sone, waar volwasse en klein A. mearnsii bome die volopste was. In stelsels wat nie binnegeval is deur indringerplante was hierdie sone die minste dig begroei van die vier sones, die mees verskillend in terme van oorstroomde toestand duur en die frekwensie van inter-en intra-jaarlikse vloede, en was 'n gebied van aktiewe werwing hoofsaaklik bestaande uit rekruut saailinge en boompies. 'n Begrip van die funksionele verskille tussen laterale sones was 'n algemene verskynsel by elke oewer gemeenskap wat gekoppel was aan die jaarlikse frekwensie van oorstroming en die oorstroomde toestand duur.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/95482
This item appears in the following collections: