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Interactions among hydrogeomorphology, vegetation, and nutrient biogeochemistry in floodplain ecosystems

January 1, 2013

Hydrogeomorphic, vegetative, and biogeochemical processes interact in floodplains resulting in great complexity that provides opportunities to better understand linkages among physical and biological processes in ecosystems. Floodplains and their associated river systems are structured by four dimensional gradients of hydrogeomorphology: longitudinal, lateral, vertical, and temporal components. These four dimensions create dynamic hydrologic and geomorphologic mosaics that have a large imprint on the vegetation and nutrient biogeochemistry of floodplains. Plant physiology, population dynamics, community structure, and productivity are all very responsive to floodplain hydrogeomorphology. The strength of this relationship between vegetation and hydrogeomorphology is evident in the use of vegetation as an indicator of hydrogeomorphic processes. However, vegetation also influences hydrogeomorphology by modifying hydraulics and sediment entrainment and deposition that typically stabilize geomorphic patterns. Nitrogen and phosphorus biogeochemistry commonly influence plant productivity and community composition, although productivity is not limited by nutrient availability in all floodplains. Conversely, vegetation influences nutrient biogeochemistry through direct uptake and storage as well as production of organic matter that regulates microbial biogeochemical processes. The biogeochemistries of nitrogen and phosphorus cycling are very sensitive to spatial and temporal variation in hydrogeomorphology, in particular floodplain wetness and sedimentation. The least studied interaction is the direct effect of biogeochemistry on hydrogeomorphology, but the control of nutrient availability over organic matter decomposition and thus soil permeability and elevation is likely important. Biogeochemistry also has the more documented but indirect control of hydrogeomorphology through regulation of plant biomass. In summary, the defining characteristics of floodplain ecosystems are determined by the many interactions among physical and biological processes. Conservation and restoration of the valuable ecosystem services that floodplains provide depends on improved understanding and predictive models of interactive system controls and behavior.

Publication Year 2013
Title Interactions among hydrogeomorphology, vegetation, and nutrient biogeochemistry in floodplain ecosystems
DOI 10.1016/B978-0-12-374739-6.00338-9
Authors G. B. Noe
Publication Type Book Chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Index ID 70046070
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Research Program - Eastern Branch