Submerged macrophytes avoiding a negative feedback in reaction to hydrodynamic stress

Jonas Schoelynck, Dieter Meire, Kris Bal, Kerst Buis, Peter Troch, Tjeerd Bouma, Patrick Meire, Stijn Temmerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


In most aquatic ecosystems, hydrodynamic conditions are a key abiotic factor determining species distribution and aquatic plant abundance. Recently, local differences in hydrodynamic conditions have been shown to be an explanatory mechanism for the patchy pattern of Callitriche platycarpa Kütz. vegetation in lowland rivers. These local conditions consists of specific areas of increased shear zones, resulting in additional plant stress and erosion of the sediment on the one hand and local decreased shear zones resulting in zones favourable to plant growth and sedimentation of bed material on the other hand. In this study, the process of this spatial plant-flow-sedimentation interaction has been illustrated quantitatively by in situ flume measurements. By disturbing the incoming discharge on a single patch in such flume, we have quantified the behaviour and influence of a C. platycarpa patch under normal field conditions (base flow). Additionally, the behaviour of a C. platycarpa patch under different conditions of hydrodynamic stress has been examined in a laboratory flume. Indeed, flexible, submerged macrophytes are capable to adapt patch dimensions with changing stream velocities. At times of modest hydrodynamic stress, the species takes a position near the water surface and optimises its leaf stand, thereby maximising its photosynthetic capacity. At times of peak discharge, the patch will bend down towards the river bed and become more confined and streamlined, as such averting the stream velocity and diminishing the risk of breaking or being uprooted.In this paper, the processes of local hydrodynamic conditions on the patch and the patch' intriguing life strategy of avoiding negative feedback was shown.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-380
Number of pages10
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Bed shear stress
  • Callitriche platycarpa
  • Erosion
  • Flume study
  • Scale-dependent feedbacks
  • Sedimentation
  • Stream

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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