Species selection and assessment of eco-engineering effects of seedlings for biogeomorphological landscape experiments

Ivar R. Lokhorst, Sjoukje I. de Lange, Gerard van Buiten, Sanja Selaković, Maarten G. Kleinhans*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Landscape experiments of fluvial environments such as rivers and deltas are often conducted with live seedlings to investigate effects of biogeomorphological interactions on morphology and stratigraphy. However, such experiments have been limited to a single species, usually alfalfa (Medicago sativa), whereas important environments in nature have many different vegetation types and eco-engineering effects. Landscape experimentation would therefore benefit from a larger choice of tested plant species. For the purpose of experimental design our objective was to identify fast-germinating and fast-growing species and determine their sensitivity to flow conditions during and after settling, their maximum growth, hydraulic resistance and added bank strength. We tested germination time and seedling growth rate of 18 candidate species with readily available seeds that are fast growing and occur at waterlines, plus Medicago sativa as a control. We selected five species that germinate and develop within days and measured properties and eco-engineering effects depending on plant age and density, targeting typical experimental conditions of 0–0.3 m/s flow velocity and 0–30 mm water depth. Tested eco-engineering effects include bank strength and flow resistance. We found that Rumex hydrolapathum can represent riparian trees. The much smaller Veronica beccabunga and Lotus pedunculatus can represent grass and saltmarsh species as they grow in dense patches with high flow resistance but are readily erodible. Sorghum bicolor grows into tall, straight shoots, which add significantly to bank strength, but adds little flow resistance and may represent sparse hardwood trees. Medicago sativa also grows densely under water, suggesting a use for mangroves and perhaps peat. In stronger and deeper flows the application of all species changes accordingly. These species can now be used in a range of landscape experiments to investigate combined effects on living landscape patterns and possible facilitation between species. The testing and treatment methodology can be applied to new species and other laboratory conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2922-2935
Number of pages14
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • bank strength
  • biogeomorphology
  • flow resistance
  • landscape experiments
  • plant species


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