Fate of pioneering vegetation patches in a dynamic meandering river

Maarten Kleinhans*, Harke Douma, Elisabeth A. Addink

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Fluvial biomorphodynamics in actively meandering rivers entail interactions between hydromorphodynamics and pioneering tree species that have eco-engineering effects. Here we study spatiotemporal patterns of vegetation patches smaller than 150 m2 in a 4 km reach of the river Allier in France in order to unravel causes for tree persistence and mortality and identify spatial trends across the river valley. To this end we analysed aerial photographs by object-based image analysis over a period of 56 years and tracked individual patches through time. Furthermore the cover and surface age of the study reach were classified. The large-scale shifts of channels, bars and vegetation are consistent with the meandering process and chute cutoffs. However, the spatiotemporal patterns of the vegetation patches are surprising in that they are ubiquitous and have ages up to decades on the highly dynamic meander belt, but hardly expand into larger vegetation patches. Patches disappear exponentially as a function of their age, and faster so in the last decades. Causes are amalgamation into the riparian forest flanking the meander belt and mortality likely due to desiccation or erosion. Patches have a higher probability of survival when further away from the active channel and closer to high vegetation patches and valley boundary. The window of opportunity of vegetation settlement widens towards the valley boundaries and in floodplain lows of former channels and chutes. These results imply a gradual cross-valley gradient of riparian vegetation settling, survival and succession.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1618-1632
Number of pages15
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2019


  • meandering river
  • object-based image analysis
  • pioneer vegetation


Dive into the research topics of 'Fate of pioneering vegetation patches in a dynamic meandering river'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this