The response of riparian vegetation to flood-maintained habitat heterogeneity


*Present address: School of Botany, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Vic. 3010, Australia (Email:


Abstract  Riparian environments are subject to the scouring and depositional effects of floods. Riparian vegetation and substrates are scoured during high flows, while litter and sediment is deposited downstream. In the Prosser and Little Swanport River catchments in south-east Tasmania, vascular plant species were surveyed in large riparian relevés. Within these relevés, 1 × 1 m subplots were placed in both flood-scoured and depositional environments. Species composition was compared between these three datasets, to investigate the importance of floods in determining species richness and species composition of riparian vegetation. Species richness and diversity were highest in areas experiencing flood scour. Herbs appear particularly reliant on the creation of gaps for colonization, and some major riparian shrub species may also require disturbance to maintain their abundance. The depositional environment tended to favour shrubs and graminoids. Given that differences in species composition are related to flood-induced features of the riparian environment, the regulation of these rivers might reduce the diversity of the riparian vegetation downstream of dams.