Large dam removal and early spontaneous riparian vegetation recruitment on alluvium in a former reservoir: Lessons learned from the pre‐removal phase of the Sélune River project (France)

Abstract : The restoration of ecological continuity along the Sélune River (Normandy, France) involves the removal of two tall hydroelectric dams (36 m removed in 2019 and 16 m in 2021), a project without precedent in Europe. During the pre‐removal phase (2014–2018), we performed scientific monitoring of the vegetation that was colonizing alluvium in the former dam reservoir (length: 19 km; surface area: 151 ha). Our study aimed to analyse if spontaneous vegetation could ecologically restore the riparian zone and help maintain fine sediment after dam removal. We used colonization indicators related to vegetation structure, taxonomic richness and diversity, and composition. These indicators were calculated at two spatial scales (local, at a single site, and broad, along the reservoir). The aim was to (a) characterize the spontaneously established species pool; (b) analyse longitudinal patterns in vegetation colonization; and (c) assess temporal changes in the species community. Our results show that diverse plant communities have developed. Slight differences in longitudinal and lateral patterns existed; they were linked with habitat heterogeneity and the reservoir's slow pace of draining. We observed fast spontaneous terrestrialization, which has resulted in cover stabilization, decreased diversity, and the development of herbaceous riverbank communities, with very few invasive species. This finding suggests stabilization potential is high and passive ecological restoration could occur, at least locally. Further analyses focusing on functional traits could help inform future management decisions regarding revegetation on reservoir alluvium.
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Submitted on : Monday, September 9, 2019 - 10:47:09 AM
Last modification on : Friday, October 25, 2019 - 11:40:03 AM

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Charlotte Ravot, Marianne Laslier, Laurence Hubert-Moy, Simon Dufour, Didier Lecoeur, et al.. Large dam removal and early spontaneous riparian vegetation recruitment on alluvium in a former reservoir: Lessons learned from the pre‐removal phase of the Sélune River project (France). River Research and Applications, Wiley, 2019, ⟨10.1002/rra.3535⟩. ⟨hal-02281406⟩

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