Biogeochemical constraints on the ecological rehabilitation of wetland vegetation in river floodplains

L.P.M. Lamers, R. Loeb, A.M. Antheunisse, M. Miletto, E.C.H.E.T. Lucassen, A.W. Boxman, A.J.P. Smolders, J. Roelofs

    Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review


    The European policy for river management during peak discharge periods is currently changing from exclusion strategies (reinforcement of dykes) to allowing a more natural situation by creating more floodplain space to reduce water levels during peak discharges. In addition, water retention and water storage areas have been created. The new measures are generally being combined with nature development strategies. Up till now, however, ecological targets of broadscale floodplain wetland restoration including sedge marshes, species-rich floodplain forests and carrs, riparian mesotrophic grasslands and other biodiverse riverine ecosystems, have hardly developed in these areas. Most studies on the conditions needed for sustainable ecological development of floodplains have focused on hydrological and geomorphological rather than biogeochemical issues (including nutrient availability and limitation). There are, however, large differences in the composition of river water and groundwater and in sediment quality between rivers in densely populated areas and those in more pristine areas, which serve as a reference. It is very likely that these factors, in combination with heavily altered hydrological regimes and the narrow areas confined between the dykes on both sides of the rivers, impose major constraints on sustainable ecological development of riverine areas. Another issue is that existing wetlands are generally considered to be very appropriate for water retention and conservation, although recent research has shown that this may pose a serious threat to their biodiversity. The present paper reviews the biogeochemical constraints on the combination of floodplain rehabilitation, water conservation and the conservation and development of wetlands. It is concluded that biogeochemical problems (mainly related to eutrophication) predominantly arise in less dynamic parts of the river system, to which the flood-pulse concept applies less. Sound knowledge of the biogeochemical processes involved will contribute to greater efficiency and a better prediction of the opportunities for restoration and development of riverine wetlands. This information can be directly applied in nature management, water management, policy-making and consultancy. [KEYWORDS: biodiversity ; biogeochemistry ; eutrophication ; flooding ; nature conservation ; review ; water management]
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)165-186
    Publication statusPublished - 2006


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