Experimental response of Salix cuttings to sudden water table changing dynamics

Hydropower production, agriculture and other human activities change the natural flow regime of rivers, in turn impacting the riparian environment. Inadequate flow rules (e.g., minimal or residual flows) reflecting our limited understanding of eco-hydrological processes have thus been applied since decades. The main challenge for an eco-sustainable water management is to quantify the effects of flow regulation on channel morphodynamics and biological processes. We present a controlled laboratory experiment to investigate riparian vegetation (Salix Viminalis) response to forced water table changing dynamics, from one water regime to another, in a temperate region (Switzerland). Three synthetic flow regimes have been simulated and applied to three batteries of Salix cuttings (60 in total) growing outdoor within plastic pots, each about 1 meter tall. After an initial period where all pots undergone the same oscillations in order to uniform the plants initial conditions, the experiment started, and the water dynamic was changed for two out of three batteries. In particular, one treatment simulated a minimal flow policy, which drastically impacts the low and the medium-low components of the hydrograph, but not the extremes. The other treatment reproduced only the low frequencies corresponding to the seasonal trend of the natural flow regime, still applied on the third battery. Cuttings transitory response dynamics has been quantified by continuous sap flow and water potential measurements, and by regularly collecting growth parameters, as well as leaves photosynthesis, fluorescence, and pictures of each plant. At the end of the experiment, all cuttings were carefully removed and the both above and below ground biomass analyzed in detail. Particularly, the 3D root structure was obtained by High Resolution Computer Tomography. Our analyses reveal a clear dependence between roots distribution and water regime reflecting the need for adaptation, which are also in agreement with field observations of Pasquale et al. (2012, in press). In particular, an initial strong difference in terms of stress and growth performances was then followed by a later adjustment in the roots system, notably detected from tomographic images. Roots tropic response resulted in spatial reallocation, which likely allowed survivors to adapt to new conditions. Macroscopic effects in terms of growth parameters at weekly time step have found correspondence at higher time resolution in terms of sap flow and stem pressure, strengthening our results interpretation. Other interesting effects detected by sap flow meters and psychrometers in the transition time, even if coherent to water regimes, have not led to macroscopic effects. A discussion with data from a parallel field installation along the Thur River (Switzerland) is also made.

Presented at:
AGU Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA, USA

 Record created 2014-03-17, last modified 2020-10-27

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