Water-level fluctuations affect macrophyte richness in floodplain lakes

G.J. van Geest, H. Wolters, F.C.J.M. Roozen, H. Coops, R.M.M. Roijackers, A.D. Buijse, M. Scheffer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

138 Citations (Scopus)


The characteristic ecology of floodplain lakes is in part due to their relatively strong water-level fluctuations. We analyzed the factors determining water-level fluctuations in 100 floodplain lakes (during non-flooded conditions) in the active floodplains of the Lower Rhine in the Netherlands. Furthermore, we explored the relationship between water-level fluctuations and macrophyte species richness, and analyzed the suitability of artificially created lakes for macrophyte vegetation. During non-flooded conditions along the Rhine, lake water-level fluctuations are largely driven by groundwater connection to the river. Hence, water-level fluctuations are largest in lakes close to the main channel in strongly fluctuating sectors of the river and smallest in isolated lakes. Additionally, water-level fluctuations are usually small in old lakes, mainly due to reduced groundwater hydraulic conductivity resulting from accumulated clay and silt on the bottom. Species richness of floating-leaved and emergent macrophytes was reduced at both small and large water-level fluctuations, whereas species richness of submerged macrophytes was reduced at small water-level fluctuations only. In addition, species richness of submerged macrophytes was higher in lakes that experienced drawdown, whereas no similar pattern was detected for floating-leaved and emergent macrophytes. The decline in amplitude of lake water-level with lake age implies that the number of hydrologically dynamic lakes will decrease over time. Therefore, we suggest that excavation of new lakes is essential to conserve the successional sequence of floodplain water bodies including conditions of high biodiversity. Shallow, moderately isolated, lakes with occasional bottom exposure have the highest potential for creating macrophyte-rich floodplain lakes along large lowland rivers. The water-level regime of such lakes can in part be designed, through choice of the location along the river, the distance away from the river and the depth profile of the lake.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-248
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • aquatic plants
  • floodplains
  • vegetation
  • lakes
  • rivers
  • biodiversity
  • plant succession
  • netherlands
  • water level
  • aquatic ecosystems
  • river rhine
  • shallow eutrophic lakes
  • aquatic plant diversity
  • long-term
  • river floodplains
  • seed dispersal
  • germination
  • connectivity
  • channels
  • dynamics


Dive into the research topics of 'Water-level fluctuations affect macrophyte richness in floodplain lakes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this