Organism traits determine the strength of scale-dependent bio-geomorphic feedbacks: a flume study on three intertidal plant species

T.J. Bouma, S. Temmerman, L.A. van Duren, E. Martini, W. Vandenbruwaene, D.P. Callaghan, T. Balke, G. Biermans, P.C. Klaassen, R. van Steeg, F. Dekker, J. van de Koppel, Mindert de Vries, P.M.J. Herman

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101 Citations (Scopus)


There is a growing recognition of the important role of scale-dependent feedback for biogeomorphological landscape formation, where organisms locally improve survival and growth but at the same time negatively affect organisms at larger distance. However, little is known on how scale-dependent bio-geomorphic feedback is influenced by organism traits in combination with abiotic forcing. This was studied by measuring in a flume, the flow patterns around patches of three contrasting marsh species (Spartina anglica, Puccinellia maritima and Salicornia procumbens), using the flow acceleration around vegetation patches and deceleration within vegetation patches as quantitative proxy for the negative and positive feedback to the vegetation performance. The importance of external forcing was assessed by comparing three realistic current velocities: 0.1, 0.2 and 0.3 m s− 1. Our results showed that the dense clonal growth of stiff Spartina anglica shoots caused strongest flow deviations, irrespective of the applied current velocity. In contrast, the more sparsely growing, shorter stiff shoots of Salicornia procumbens induced much less flow deviation, allowing more water to pass through and over the vegetation canopy. The dense but highly flexible shoots of Puccinellia maritima caused strong flow deviations at low velocities, which diminished at higher velocities due to bending of the vegetation. Overall, these hydrodynamic results demonstrate that plant species traits interact with environmental conditions in creating scale-dependent feedbacks explaining why the effects of vegetation on landscape formation in saltmarshes are species specific.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-65
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • METIS-295592
  • IR-86395

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