Applying functional traits to ecogeomorphic processes in riparian ecosystems

Rebecca M. Diehl, David M. Merritt, Andrew C. Wilcox, Michael L. Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


The functional trait framework, an ecological tool powerful for its simplicity and ability to facilitate modeling and generalization across environmental gradients, can capture the interactions between ecological and physical processes that shape riparian ecosystems. We demonstrate that ecological-response traits that describe how a plant will respond to abiotic stressors are similar, or strongly correlated, to morphological-effect traits important for determining how a plant alters the flow of water and transport of sediment. This link allows for modeling the distribution of ecological and morphological traits on the basis of environmental conditions. Observations of the topographic response of vegetated plots to moderate flood events illustrate how plant traits can be linked to landform geometry. As such, the functional trait framework provides a modeling approach to understand the coupled dynamics of ecogeomorphic systems and inform their conservation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)729-743
Number of pages15
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017


  • Hydrology
  • Modeling
  • Plant ecology
  • Plant morphology
  • Water resources


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