Riparian willow, alder and ash stands – softwood floodplain forest
Alnus glutinosa in Fraxinus excelsior (Alno-Padion, Alnion incanae, Salicion albae)
The community of riparian willow, alder and ash stands is also referred to as softwood floodplain forest. These are lowland woodlands along large rivers that are often inundated and form very specific ecosystems in which several organisms find their home. These are, as a rule, young development stage forests, overgrowing gravel bars from the banks of the rivers up towards higher and older river terraces. From very unstable initial stages (willow scrubs on gravel bars), development proceeds through stands of grey alder and ash to established communities, which are still under the influence of groundwater or floodwater. The survival of these forests is therefore determined by standing or running waters, or the community develops only under the direct influence of the watercourse
Owing to hydromorphological changes (consolidation of river banks, inability of dunes to be formed, flooding, decreasing groundwater levels and deepening of the riverbed), the condition of softwood floodplain forest communities deteriorates. The latter is clearly manifested through the poor condition of focal tree species and the absence of natural rejuvenation of communities. The deteriorated conditions are additionally spurred by invasive nonindigenous plant species, which prevent rejuvenation of this forest habitat type.
With a view to improve the condition of typical floodplain forests along the Drava River, part of the stands will be restored by planting characteristic tree species as well as measures to enhance natural rejuvenation. In order to increase people’s awareness with regard to the importance of preserving softwood floodplain forests and their species diversity, educational interpretation unit will be set up at the same time.
What can we do to upgrade the softwood floodplain forest’s conservation status?
- When rejuvenating this type of forests, we do so with indigenous locally-characteristic tree species.
- We provide for active rejuvenation of floodplain forests.
Did you know that softwood floodplain forest:
- protects the earth's surface against soil erosion,
- has a beneficial impact on the environment’s microclimate, alleviates wind power, prevents too rapid evaporation of water from the soil,
- retains flood water during floods, and releases it during droughts,
- and presents a source of wood for local residents.