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Ecology and vegetation of braided rivers

in the European Alps


with special emphasis on the Tagliamento - King of alpine rivers

Norbert Müller

University of Applied Sciences Erfurt, Germany

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Contents

1 Geography of the European Alps


2 History of the European Alps
3 Ecology of alpine rivers in Europe
4 Human impact on alpine rivers
5 Tagliamento - the last large natural river in the European Alps
5.1 Morphology and vegetation
5.2 Plant diversity
5.3 Diversity of key species and exotic plants
5.4 EU Habitats and importance for nature conservation
6 Risks for the Tagliamento
7 Challenges and chances for the future
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1. Geography of European Alps

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Venecia
Geology
Central Alps (< 4000 m) - Silicious (origin volcanic)
Northern & South. Alps (< 3000 m) - limestone (origin sea sediments)

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History
10.000 BC end of glaciers period

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2 History
- 4000 BC first records of burning forests and creating new pastures in the
Southern - and Central Alps
- 1000 BC increasing of permanent settlements in the valleys
- 0 “Via Claudia” permanent road from the Romans across the Alps
- 1500 AC main period - transformation alpine forests in meadows

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3. Ecology of alpine rivers in Europe

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3.1 River types

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3.2 Hydrodynamics

Annual run-off regime of a lowland and an alpine river in Europe

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3.3 Dynamics in morphology
Catchments areas in limestone are the main sources for the bed loads which
are transported during flood water events

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When the flood water event is over the landscape has changed….

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…..for the design of islands the debris can play an essential role

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3.4 Dynamics and structure of floodplain vegetation
Spatial and temporal dimension: example for patch dynamics

1984 2004

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3.4 Dynamics and structure of floodplain vegetation

Bare & Pioneer vegetation Flooding vegetation Dry woods


Key species: Epilobium div. Alnus & Salix woods Pinus div. spec.
spec., Myricaria germanica
Salix div. spec Typha minima, 16
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Pioneer vegetation –
a) species form the higher altitude – debris fields and alpine meadows
b) species which grow only in alpine riversides – key species

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Pioneer vegetation perennial – Key species Chondrilla chondrilloides

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Pioneer vegetation - perennial – Key species Epilobium dodanei

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Pioneer vegetation - shrubby (Salicetum elaeagnii) - Key species Salix elaeagnos

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Pioneer vegetation - shrubby - Key species Myricaria germanica

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Pioneer vegetation – perennial - Key species Typha minima in old channels

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Bare & Pioneer vegetation Flooding vegetation Dry woods
Key species: Epilobium div. Alnus & Salix woods Pinus div. spec.
spec., Myricaria germanica
Salix div. spec Typha minima, 24
Flooding vegetation – Alnus incana & Phragmites communis

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Dry woods- Pinus sylvestris

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3.5 Biology of key species
Example: Typha minima Hoppe
• High seed production but no permanent seed bank
• wind & water dispersal
• Fast germination in newly created habitats
• Long root system
• High capability of regeneration
• Biennial or woody (never annual)
• Stress- tolerator in the sense of GRIME 1979
• Meta-population concept

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4. Human impact on alpine rivers
1500 changes catchments' area …nutrient input…loss biogeogr.
barriers…1900 river- regulation…… 1950 power plant dams…..

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Decline Myricaria germanica in the N-Alps in the last 100 years due to civil
engineering measures

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Expansion of ruderal and invasive alien species - neobiota

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Summary
1500 changes in the catchments area ..
nutrient input…
loss biogeogr. barriers…
1900 river- regulation……
1950 power plant dams…..
Since 2000 river restoration and revitalization

Background two European Directives


a) European Union Water Frame Directive
b) European Union Habitat Directive NATURA 2000 31
5. Tagliamento - the last large natural river in the
European Alps

Tagliamento

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5. 1 Morphology and vegetation

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Upper course - transect 1 & 2

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Middle course - transects 3 & 4

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Middle course – transects 5 & 6

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Lower course - transects 7 & 8

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5.2 Plant diversity (species number) in the longitude

Total species number in the investigation areas

1 Mauria 124

2 Forni di Sotto 320

3 Amaro 304

4 Cornino 266
Standorte

5 Spilimbergo 195

6 Casarsa 187

7 Bolzano 209

8 Latisana 36

0 50 100 150 200 250 300


Artenzahl

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5.3 Key species (species number) in the longitude
pioneer- & floodplain vegetation Anzahl Zielarten in den Untersuchungsgebieten

Pionierstandort
Mauria
Auwald

Forno di Soto

Amaro

Cornino

Spilinbergo

Casarsa

Bolzano

Latisana

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

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5.4 EU Directive Habitats & importance nature conservation
a) last (semi) natural river in the Alps with all types of riparian habitats
b) largest natural corridor in Europe
connecting the continental with the Mediterranean biome
Example coherence of the key species Calamagrostis pseudophragmites

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3220 – Alpine rivers and the herbaceous
vegetation along their banks

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3230 – Alpine rivers with Myricaria germanica
(Salici-Myricariertum)

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3240 – Alpine rivers with Salix eleagnos
(Salicetum eleagni)

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7230 – Alkaline Fens
7240*– Alpine pioneer formations

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91E0*–Alluvial Forests
(Alnion incanae, Salicion albae)

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91F0 – Riparian mixed forests along great rivers
(Ulmenion minoris)

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3270 – Rivers with muddy banks
(Chenodion rubri, Bidention)

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EU Directive Habitats und connectivity

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6. Risks for the Tagliamento

• Old technical plans of the Region


Friaul Venetien for highwater
prevention (Hochwasserschutz) of
Latisana

• Latente Gefährdungen
• Technical constructions along the river
and their z. B. Fella
• Deforestation and agricultural landuse
of the floodplain area
• Biological Invasions

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Geplante Hochwasserrückhaltebecken
zwischen Pinzano und Dignano

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Exotic species (species number) in the longitude
pioneer- & floodplain vegetation Artenzahl Neophyten in den Untersuchungsgebieten (UG) auf Pionier- und Auwaldstandorten

Pionierstandort
Mauria Auwald

Forni d.S.

Armaro

Cornino

Spilenbergo

Carsarsa

Bolzano

Latisana

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

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7 Challenges and chances for the future

1 International
• Protection of the whole Tagliamento river corridor as a
UNESCO World Heritage Site

2 European Union

• Support the local authorities (Friaul and Ventia) along the


Tagliamento with special programs of the EU to protect
biodiversity – e. g. LIFE +
• Development of the area as a model region for sustainable
river management within the EU Water Frame Directive
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Thank you!

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