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

  • R. Loeb
  • A. W. Boxman
  • L. P. M. Lamers
  • E. H. E. T. Lucassen
  • A. J. P. Smolders
  • J. G. M. Roelofs
  • A. M. Antheunisse
  • M. Miletto
Part of the Developments in Hydrobiology book series (DIHY, volume 187)


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.

Key words

biodiversity biogeochemistry eutrophication flooding nature conservation review water management 


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Copyright information

© Springer2006 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Loeb
    • 1
  • A. W. Boxman
    • 1
  • L. P. M. Lamers
    • 1
    • 2
  • E. H. E. T. Lucassen
    • 1
    • 2
  • A. J. P. Smolders
    • 1
    • 2
  • J. G. M. Roelofs
    • 1
    • 2
  • A. M. Antheunisse
    • 3
  • M. Miletto
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Aquatic Ecology and Environmental BiologyInstitute for Wetland and Water Research, Radboud University NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.B-Ware Research CentreNijmegenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Landscape Ecology, Institute of Environmental BiologyUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Department of Microbial Wetland EcologyNetherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), Centre for LimnologyNieuwersluisThe Netherlands

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