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The role of soil in vegetated gravelly river braid plains: more than just a passive response?
Earth Surface Processes and Landforms
This paper reviews the role of alluvial soils in vegetated gravelly river braid plains. When considering decadal time scales of river evolution, we argue that it becomes vital to consider soil development as an emergent property of the developing ecosystem. Soil processes have been relatively overlooked in accounts of the interactions between braided river processes and vegetation, although soils have been observed on vegetated fluvial landforms. We hypothesise that soil development plays a major role in the transition (speed and pathway) from a fresh sediment deposit to a vegetated soil-covered landform. Disturbance (erosion and/or deposition), vertical sediment structure (process history), vegetation succession, biological activity and water table fluctuation are seen as the main controls on early alluvial soil evolution. Erosion and deposition processes may not only act as soil disturbing agents, but also as suppliers of ecosystem resources, because of their role in delivering and changing access (e.g. through avulsion) to fluxes of water, fine sediments and organic matter. In turn, the associated initial ecosystem may influence further fluvial landform development, such as through the trapping of fine-grained sediments (e.g. sand) by the engineering action of vegetation and the deposit stabilisation by the developing above and belowground biomass. This may create a strong feedback between geomorphological processes, vegetation succession and soil evolution which we summarise in a conceptual model. We illustrate this model by an example from the Allondon River (CH) and identify the research questions that follow.
braided rivers, gravelly river braid plains, alluvial soils, biogeomorphic succession, floodplain ecosystem
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