Feedbacks between vegetation, surface structures and hydrology during initial development of the artificial catchment "Chicken Creek"

TitleFeedbacks between vegetation, surface structures and hydrology during initial development of the artificial catchment "Chicken Creek"
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsSchaaf W, Elmer M, Fischer A, Gerwin W, Nenov R, Pretzsch H, Zaplata MK
JournalProcedia Environmental Sciences
Start Page86
Keywordsecosystem development, pattern formation, soil formation, vegetation succession

Our investigations at the artificial catchment ‘Chicken Creek’ in Lusatia/Germany aim to disentangle and understand the feedback mechanisms and interrelationships of processes and their co-development with spatial and temporal structures and patterns by studying this initial, probably less complex ecosystem. Intensive measurements were carried out in the catchment with regard to the development of surface structures, hydrological patterns, and vegetation dynamics. During the first seven years, considerable changes within the catchment were observed. Both internal and external factors could be identified as driving forces for the formation of structures and patterns in the artificial catchment. Initial structures formed by the construction process and initial substrate characteristics were decisive for the distribution and flow of water. External factors like episodic events triggered erosion and dissection during this initial phase, promoted by the low vegetation cover and the unconsolidated sandy substrate. The transformation of the initial geo-system into areas with evolving terrestrial or aquatic characteristics and from a very episodic to a more permanent stream network and discharge, together with the observed vegetation dynamics increased site diversity and heterogeneity with respect to water and nutrient availability and transformation processes compared to the more homogenous conditions at point zero. The processes and feedback mechanisms in the initial development of a new landscape may deviate in rates, intensity and dominance from those known from mature ecosystems. It is therefore crucial to understand these early phases of ecosystem development and to disentangle the increasingly complex interactions between the evolving terrestrial and aquatic, biotic and abiotic compartments of the system. Artificially created catchments could be a suitable tool to study these initial developments at the landscape scale under known, designed and defined boundary conditions.