Community Ecology

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 59–72 | Cite as

A multivariate analysis examining the effect of landform on the distribution of riparian plant communities of Washington, USA

  • L. A. MollotEmail author
  • R. E. Bilby
  • D. M. Chapin


A considerable amount of research has been conducted on the influence of landform features on the distribution of vegetation on floodplains of major rivers. Considerably less work has examined this relationship along smaller channels in mountainous terrain. We utilized multivariate statistical techniques to examine the relationship between landform types and riparian plant floristics along small streams at the Cedar River Municipal Watershed in western Washington, USA. Riparian geomorphic surfaces were assigned to one of four landform classes based on topographic characteristics and position relative to the stream channel: low floodplain, high floodplain, terrace and hillslope. Landform exerted a strong influence on the distribution of tree, shrub and understory plant species. Certain taxa were found only on one or two of the landforms. Other species displayed a gradient in abundance across landforms. No single species occupied all landforms at the same level of abundance. The distribution patterns of species among the landforms suggested that primary drivers in the organization of the plant communities were moisture and susceptibility to disturbance. Plants preferring high moisture levels and resistant to the effects of fluvial disturbance typically were found on the floodplain landforms. Communities with hardwood-dominated over-stories and dense shrub understories were prevalent on these sites. Slopes and terraces supported species able to cope with drier conditions and those unable to persist with frequent disturbance. Conifers were prevalent only on these drier, infrequently-disturbed landforms. These results indicate that restoration measures to increase the presence of conifer trees in riparian areas, a common activity in the Pacific Northwest, should be applied only on landforms that would naturally support these species.


Conifer restoration Fluvial disturbance Landform Ordination Riparian forest succession Riparian plant community Salmon habitat 



Cedar River Municipal Watershed


Indicator Species Analysis


Indicator Value


Multi-Response Permutation Procedures


Non-metric Multidimensional Scaling


Weighted Averaging


Hitchock and Cronquist 1976 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Agee, J.K. 1988. Succession dynamics in forest riparian zones. In: K.J. Raedke, (Ed.), Streamside Management: Riparian Wildlife and Forestry Interactions. Contribution No. 59, Institute of Forest Resources, University of Washington. pp. 31–43.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, A.J.B. 1971. Ordination methods in ecology. J. Ecol. 59:713–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Austin, M.P. 1976. Performance of four ordination techniques assuming 3 different non-linear species response models. Vegetatio 33:43–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baker, W.L. and G.M. Walford. 1995. Multiple stable states and models of riparian vegetation succession on the Animas River, Colorado. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 85:320–338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barnes, H.H. 1967. Roughness characteristics of natural channels. U.S. Geological Supply Paper 1849. U.S. Government Printing Office. Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  6. Bendix, J. 1994. Among-site variation in riparian vegetation of the Southern California Transverse Ranges. Am. Midland Nat. 132: 136–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Beach, E.W. and C.B. Halpern. 2001. Controls on conifer regeneration in managed riparian forests: effects of seed source, substrate and vegetation. Can. J. Forestry Resources 31:471–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Beechie, T. J. and T.H. Sibley. 1997. Relationships between channel characteristics, woody debris, and fish habitat in northwestern Washington Streams. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 126 (2):217–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bilby, B.E and P.A. Bisson. 1998. Function and distribution of large woody debris in streams. In: B.E. Bilby and B.J. Naimain (eds.), River Ecology and Management: Lessons from the Pacific Coastal Ecoregion. Springer Verlag Press. New York. pp. 324–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Biondini, M. E., C. D. Bonham and E. F. Redente. 1985. Secondary successional patterns in a sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) community as they relate to soil disturbance and soil biological activity. Vegetatio 60: 25–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bradfield, G. E. and N. C. Kenkel. 1987. Nonlinear ordination using flexible shortest path adjustment of ecological distances. Ecology 68:750–753.Google Scholar
  12. Burns, R.M. and B.H. Honkala. 1990. (Tech. Coords). Silvics of North America: Volume 2. Hardwoods. Agriculture Handbook 654. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington, DC. Vol. 2. 877 p.Google Scholar
  13. Canfield, R.H. 1941. Application of the line interception method in sampling range vegetation. J. Forestry 39:388–394.Google Scholar
  14. Chapin, D.M., B.L. Beschta and H.W. Shen. 2002. Relationships between flood frequencies and riparian plant communities in the upper Klamath Basin, Oregon. J. Amer. Water Resources Association 38: 603–617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. City of Seattle. 2000. Final Cedar River watershed habitat conservation plan: for the issuance of a permit to allow incidental take of threatened and endangered species. City of Seattle, Vol 1–3.Google Scholar
  16. Clarke, K.R. 1993. Non-parametric multivariate analysis of change in community structure. Austral. J. Ecol. 18:117–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Compton, J.A., M.R. Church, S.T. Larned and W.E. Hogsett. 2003. Nitrogen export from forested watersheds in the Oregon Coast Range: The role of N2-fixing red alder. Ecosystems 6:773–785.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Curtis, J.T. and R. P. McIntosh. 1951. An upland forest continuum in the prairie-forest border region of Wisconsin. Ecology 32:476–496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Daubenmire R.F. 1959. Canopy coverage method for vegetation analysis. Northwest Science 33:43–64.Google Scholar
  20. Dufrene, M. and P. Legendre. 1997. Species assemblages and indicator species: the need for a flexible asymmetrical approach. Ecol. Monog. 67:345–366.Google Scholar
  21. Fasham, M.J.R. 1977. A comparison of nonmetric multidimensional scaling, principal components and reciprocal averaging for the ordination of simulated coenoclines, and coenoplanes. Ecology 58:551–561.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fonda, R.W. 1974. Forest succession in relation to river terrace development in Olympic National Park, Washington. Ecology 55:927–942.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fralish, J.S. and S.B. Franklin. 2002. Taxonomy and Ecology of Woody Plants in North American Forests. John Wiley and Sons Inc. New York.Google Scholar
  24. Franklin, J.F. and C.T. Dyrness. 1973. Natural Vegetation of Oregon and Washington. Oregon State University Press. Corvallis.Google Scholar
  25. Franklin, S. B. and J.A. Kupfer. 2004. Forest communities of Natchez Trace State Forest, Western Tennessee coastal plain. Castanea 69 (1):15–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gauch, H. G. 1982. Multivariate Analysis in Community Ecology. Cambridge University Press. New York.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Greig-Smith, P. 1983. Quantitative Plant Ecology. Third edition. Blackwell Scientific Publications. Oxford.Google Scholar
  28. Gregory, S. N., F. J. Swanson, W. A. Mckee, and K. W. Cummins. 1991. An ecosystem perspective of riparian zones: focus on links between land and water. BioScience 41:540–551.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Harris, R.R. 1987. Occurrence of vegetation on geomorphic surfaces in the active floodplain of a California alluvial stream. Amer. Midland Nat. 118: 393–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Harris, R.R. 1988. Associations between stream valley geomorphology and riparian vegetation as a basis for landscape analysis in eastern Sierra Nevada, California, USA. Environ. Manage. 12: 219–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Harris, R.R. 1999. Defining reference conditions for restoration of riparian plant communities: examples from California, USA. Environ. Manage. 24: 55–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hawk G.M. and D.B. Zobel. 1974. Forest succession on alluvial landforms of the McKenzie River Valley, Oregon. Northwest Science 48(4):245–265.Google Scholar
  33. Henderson, J.F. 1978. Plant succession on the Alnus rubra/Rubus spectabilis habitat type in western Oregon. Northwest Science 52(3):159–167.Google Scholar
  34. Henderson, J. and R. Lesher. 2002. Survey protocols for benchmark plots (Permanent Intensive Ecoplots) for western Washington, Version 1.22. U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region unpublished report.Google Scholar
  35. Hitchcock, L.C. and A. Cronquist. 1976. Flora of the Pacific Northwest. University of Washington Press, Seattle.Google Scholar
  36. Hupp, C.R.. 1986. Upstream variation in bottomland vegetation patterns. Northwestern Virginia. Bull. Torrey Bot. Club 113: 421–430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hupp, C.R. and W.R. Osterkamp. 1985. Bottomland vegetation distribution along Passage Creek, Virginia, in relation to fluvial landforms. Ecology 66:670–681.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Jenness, J. 2003. Distance/Azimuth Tools v. 1.4e (dist_az_tools.avx) for ArcView 3.x. Jenness Enterprises. Available at
  39. Kaufmann, J.B., R.L. Beschta, N. Otting and D. Lytjen. 1997. An ecological perspective of riparian and stream restoration in the western United States. Fisheries 22(5):12–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Keddy, P.A. and P. MacLellan. 1990. Centrifugal organization in forests. Oikos 59:75–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kenkel, N.C. and L. Orlóci. 1986. Applying metric and nonmetric multidimensional scaling to ecological studies: some new results. Ecology 67:919–928.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kruskal J.B. 1964a. Multidimensional scaling by optimizing goodness of fit to a nonmetric hypothesis. Pyschometrika 29:1–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Kruskal, J.B. 1964b. Nonmetric multidimensional scaling: a numerical method. Pyschometrika 29:115–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Krzysik, A.J. 2001. SERDP Quarterly Report 1. Project CS-1114B.Google Scholar
  45. Mawhinney, W.A. 2003. Restoring biodiversity in the Gwydir Wetlands through environmental flows. Water Science and Technology 48(7):73–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. McCune, B. and M. J. Mefford. 1999. PC-Ord for Windows: Multi-variate Analysis of Ecological Data. Version 4.30. MjM Software, Gleneden Beach, Oregon, U.S.AGoogle Scholar
  47. McCune B. and J.B. Grace. 2002. Analysis of Ecological Communities. Gleneden Beach, Oregon: MJM Software Design.Google Scholar
  48. Meehan, W. R., F. J. Swanson, and J. R. Sedell. 1977. Influences of riparian vegetation on aquatic ecosystems with particular reference to salmonid fishes and their food supply. U.S. Forest Service Symposium. Reproduced from, ‘‘Importance, preservation and management of riparian habitat: a symposium,’’ 9 July 1977, Tucson, Arizona.Google Scholar
  49. Mielke, P.W., Jr. 1984. Meteorological applications of permutation techniques based on distance functions. In: P.R. Krishnaiah and P.K. Send (eds), Handbook of Statistics Volume 4. Elsevier Science Publishers, North-Holland. pp. 813–830.Google Scholar
  50. Mielke, P.W., Jr. and K.J. Berry. 2001. Permutation Methods: A Distance Function Approach. Springer Series in Statistics, Springer, New York.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Mikkelsen, K. N. 2001. Factors Influencing the Distribution of Conifers and Red Alder in Riparian Zones in Western Washington. Published master’s thesis, University of Washington, Seattle, WA.Google Scholar
  52. Minchin, P. R. 1987. An evaluationof the relative robustnessof techniques for ecological ordination. Vegetatio 69:89–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Montgomery, D.R. 1994. Geomorphological influences on salmon spawning distributions. Proceedings of the Annual Geological Society of America Conference, p. A-439.Google Scholar
  54. Montgomery D.R. and J.M. Buffington. 1998. Channel processes, classification and response. In: Bilby B.E. and B.J. Naimain (eds.), River Ecology and Management: Lessons from the Pacific Coastal Ecoregion. Springer, New York. pp. 13–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Naiman, B. J., K. L. Fetherston, S. J. McKay, and J. Chen. 1998. Riparian forests. In: B. E. Bilby and B. J. Naimain (eds.) River Ecology and Management: Lessons from the Pacific Coastal Ecoregion. Springer Verlag Press. New York. pp. 289–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Naiman, R. J., R. E. Bilby, and P. A. Bisson. 2000. Riparian ecology and management in the Pacific coastal rain forest. BioScience 50:996–1011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. NCASI, National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, Inc. 1999. Assessing Effects of Timber Harvest on Riparian Zone Features and Functions for Aquatic and Wildlife Habitat. Technical Bulletin No. 0775. Research Triangle Park, NC: National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, Inc.Google Scholar
  58. Pabst, P.J. and Spies, T.A. 1997. Distribution of herbs and shrubs in relation to landform and canopy cover in riparian forest of coastal Oregon. Can. J. Bot. 76:298–315.Google Scholar
  59. Pabst, P.J. and Spies, T.A. 1999. Structure and composition of un-managed riparian forests in the Coastal Mountains of Oregon, USA. Canadian Journal of Forestry Resources 29:1557–1573.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Peck, J. 2004. Using PC-Ord for Multivariate Data Analysis. Unpublished training course manual.Google Scholar
  61. Pitillo, D.J. and B. Prater. 2005. Analysis of vegetative communities and the effects of human disturbance within conservation zones along shoreline of Lake Glenville. Western North Carolina Alliance.
  62. Prentice, I.C. 1977. Non-metric ordination methods in ecology. J. Ecol. 65:85–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Prentice, I.C. 1980. Vegetation analysis and order invariant gradient models. Vegetatio 42:27–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Reed, P.B. 1988. National List of Plant Species that Occur in Wetlands: Northwest (Region 9). US Fish and Wildlife Service, Biological Report 88 (26.9). Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  65. Reeves G. H., P. A. Bisson, and J. M. Dambacher. 1998. Fish communities. In: Bilby B.E. and B.J. Naimain (eds.), River Ecology and Management: Lessons from the Pacific Coastal Ecoregion. Springer Verlag Press. New York. pp. 200–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Roni, P., T.J. Beechie, R.E. Bilby, F.E. Leonetti, M.M. Pollack and G.R. Pess. 2002. A review of stream restoration techniques and a hierarchical strategy for prioritizing restoration in Pacific Northwest watersheds. Can. J. Fish. Aquatic Sci. 22:1–20.Google Scholar
  67. Roni, P. 2005. Overview and background. In: Roni, P. (ed), Monitoring Stream and Watershed Restoration. American Fisheries Society. Betheseda, Maryland, pp. 350.Google Scholar
  68. Rosgen, D. 1998. The reference reach field book. Wildland Hydrology, Pagosa Springs, CO, USA.Google Scholar
  69. Rot, B.W., R.J. Naiman and R.E. Bilby. 2000. Stream channel configuration, landform, and riparian forest structure in the Cascade Mountains, WA. Can. J. Forestry Resources 57:699–707.Google Scholar
  70. Shainsky, L.J. and S.R. Radosevich. 1992. Mechanisms of competition between Douglas-fir and red alder seedlings. Ecology 73: 30–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Shepard, R.N. 1962. The analysis of proximities: multidimensional scaling with an unknown distance function. Psychometrika 27:125–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Sokal, R.R. and F.J. Rohlf. 1995. Biometry. Third Edition. W.H. Freeman & Co., New York.Google Scholar
  73. Tabacchi, E., D. L. Correll, R. Hauer, G. Pinay, A. P. Tabacchi, and R. C. Wissmar. 1998. Development, maintenance and role of riparian vegetation in the river landscape. Freshwater Biology 40:497–516.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. ter Braak. 1994. Canonical community ordination. part 1: basic theory and linear methods. Ecoscience 2:127–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. USDA Forest Service and WEST Consultants, Inc. 1998. WinX-SPRO: a channel cross-section analyzer. Unpublished User’s Manual prepared by WEST Consultants, Inc. 16870 W. Bernardo Drive, Suite 340, San Diego, CA 80526 for the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Experiment Station, Fort Collins, CO.Google Scholar
  76. USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) 2001. The National Flood-Frequency Program - methods for estimating flood magnitude and frequency in Washinton, 2001. USGS Fact Sheet 016-01 downloaded from
  77. Volk, C.J., Kiffney, P.M. and R.L. Edmonds. 2003. Role of riparian red alder in the nutrient dynamics of coastal streams of the Olympic Peninsula, Washington, USA. American Fisheries Society Symposium 34: 213–225.Google Scholar
  78. Whittaker, R.H. 1967. Gradient analysis of vegetation. Biol. Rev. 42:207–264.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  79. Zimmerman, G.M., M.H. Goetz and P.W. Mielke, Jr. 1985. Use of an improved statistical method for group comparisons to study effects of prairie Fire. Ecology. Vol 66: 606–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest 2008

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Forest ResourcesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Weyerhaeuser Co. Forestry ResearchFederal WayUSA
  3. 3.Seattle Public UtilitiesNorth BendUSA

Personalised recommendations