1. Flow dynamics is a major determinant of riparian plant communities. Therefore, flowregulation may heavily affect riparian ecosystems. Despite the large number of damsworldwide, little specific information is available on the longitudinal impacts of dams onvegetation, for example how far downstream and at what degree of regulation a dam on ariver can influence riparian woodlands.
2. We quantified the long-term responses of riparian trees and shrubs to flow regulation byidentifying their lateral distribution and habitat conditions along a boreal river in northernSweden that has been regulated by a single dam since 1948. The regulation has reducedannual flow fluctuations, this effect being largest at the dam, downstream from which itprogressively decreases following the entrance of free-flowing tributaries.
3. We related changes in the distribution patterns, composition, abundance and richness oftree and shrub species to the degree of regulation along the river downstream from thedam. Regulation has triggered establishment of trees and shrubs closer to the channel,making it possible to measure ecological impacts of flow regulation as differences invegetation attributes relative to the positions of tree and shrub communities establishedbefore and after regulation.
4. Trees and shrubs had migrated towards the mid-channel along the entire study reach,but the changes were largest immediately downstream of the dam. Shrubs were mostimpacted by flow regulation in terms of lateral movement, but the effect on trees extendedfurthest downstream.
5. The species composition of trees progressively returned to its pre-regulation state withdistance downstream, but entrance of free-flowing tributaries and variation in channelmorphology and substratum caused local deviations. Species richness after regulationincreased for trees but decreased for shrubs. The changes in species composition andrichness of trees and shrubs showed no clear downstream patterns, suggesting that otherfactors than the degree of regulation were more important in governing life form.
2011. Vol. 56, no 5, 853-866 p.
dam;degree of regulation;ecological responses;flow regulation;northern Sweden;riparian vegetation;river;shrubs;trees