Abstract. This study tested whether the frequency of flood disturbances was able to slow down or stabilize vegetation succession in former braided channels over a decade. According to the Patch Dynamics Concept and to succession theory, species richness and diversity should be high but stable in the frequently (40 days/year) flooded channel, and should change over time in the infrequently (1 day/year) flooded one. Within the frequently disturbed channel, composition of vegetation as well as species richness and diversity appeared stable through dynamic equilibrium over the decade. Only one zone, because of particular geomorphological features that decreased disturbance intensity, developed highest diversity and richness as expected from the Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis. The highest disturbance effect decreased species richness and was related to a higher spatial heterogeneity of the substrate (number of grain‐size classes). In the other zones, richness and diversity appeared to be lowest where disturbance frequency was lowest or disturbance intensity was highest. From 1981 to 1987, the infrequently flooded channel underwent succession, and species richness increased in the major part of the channel, whereas diversity increased only in its extreme parts.
Journal of Vegetation Science – Wiley
Published: Oct 1, 1996
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