The formation of natural levees as a disturbance process significant to the conservation of riverine pastures

H.P. Wolfert, P.W.F.M. Hommel, A.H. Prins, M.H. Stam

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17 Citations (Scopus)


Disturbances and patch dynamics are inherent to many ecosystems of the world, especially in the riparian zone. This paper describes the influence of natural levee overbank deposition on riverine grasslands along the meandering River Dinkel (the Netherlands). Here, the rare vegetation type Diantho-Armerietum, characterised by Dianthus deltoides, Thymus pulegioides, Pimpinella saxifraga and Galium verum, has been identified as important to nature conservation. Diantho-Armerietum shows a strong preference for dry, nutrient poor, sandy and relatively young soils, with an elevation approximately 30-50 cm above bankfull discharge level, corresponding to a flooding frequency of 2-3 times per year. The lower zones are strongly influenced by nutrient-rich water, whereas the higher zones are vulnerable to soil acidification. In the intermediate zone, soil development may be reset due to the supply of calcium, adsorbed to recently deposited levee sands. Since deposition rates will decrease with increasing levee heights, new levees are regularly needed to stop the decline of this floriferous vegetation type. The formation of new natural levees is favoured by the occurrence of meander cutoffs, causing a cyclic succession of landforms along the river. Thereforea conservation strategy for this vegetation type needs to aim at the rehabilitation of the natural levee disturbance process, in conjunction with encouraging the meandering of the river.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-57
JournalLandscape Ecology
Issue numberSuppl. 1
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • streams
  • geomorphology
  • vegetation
  • nature conservation
  • ecohydrology
  • overijssel


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