Effects of flooding on the recruitment, damage and mortality of riparian tree species: A field and simulation study on the Rhine floodplain

K. Kramer, S.J. Vreugdenhil, D.C. van der Werf

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48 Citations (Scopus)


The extensive flooding by the river Rhine on May 12 1999 provided an opportunity to investigate the impact of such an extreme event in terms of damage and mortality of adult trees in floodplains. Such data is highly valuable for determining the potential impact of climate change on the zonation of tree species along rivers. We analysed an extensive dataset of the damage and mortality suffered by groups of adult trees of the following species as a consequence of this flood: the hardwoods Acer campestre L., Acer platanoides L., Acer pseudoplatanus L., Alnus glutinosa (L.) Gaertn., Carpinus betulus L., Fagus sylvatica L., Fraxinus excelsior L., Juglans nigra L., Prunus avium (L.) L., Quercus robur L., Tilia cordata Mill., Ulmus laevis Pall. and Ulmus minor Miller, and the softwoods Salix spp. L. and Populus spp. L. A logistic survivorship curve revealed that mortality of A. platanoides, A. pseudoplatanus and T. cordata increased significantly with increasing duration of flooding; C. betulus and F. excelsior showed a significant increase of damage and mortality with increasing flooding depth. There was no mortality of Salix spp. and Populus spp. in either the flooded or unflooded areas. No statistically significant relationships were found for the other tree species. Multivariate analysis revealed that flooding duration, flooding depth and flooding velocity explain 19%, 11% and 8%, respectively, of the variation in damage and mortality of trees. The survivorship curves of adult trees obtained in this study were combined with similar curves of saplings based on an earlier study and applied in an individual-tree, process-based simulation model. The simulated effects of flooding on an initial random distribution of trees species on a hypothetical floodplain resulted in a realistic zonation of tree species along the river. When extreme events were simulated, the zonation shifted upward. This demonstrates the model's usefulness in assessment and planning studies of the impacts of climate change on tree species composition in river floodplains in north-west Europe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3893-3903
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • climate-change
  • river
  • strategies
  • forest
  • management
  • survival
  • impact
  • model
  • restoration
  • netherlands

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