We examined the relationships between channelization, environmental characteristics, and plant communities in 4 streams (Betz, Cléry, Lunain, and Ecole Rivers) southeast of Paris, France, with the goal of assessing stream health. Seventeen 100-m-long reaches, each divided into a pool/riffle sequence, were monitored in 2006. Each reach had 0 to 3 channelization structures (i.e., embanking, resectioning, and other man-made structures). Redundancy analysis and mean-comparison tests done at 2 spatial scales (reach scale and pool/riffle sequence scale) indicated that channelization significantly affected flow velocity, depth, substrate type, and number of pools/riffles (4 of 24 variables considered). Physical characteristics of the streams were significantly more affected by channelization than were chemical characteristics. Moreover, different channelization structures affected the streams differently. Resectioning and embanking reduced flow velocity and the number of riffles and increased the number of pools. However, man-made structures either accelerated (downstream) or reduced flow velocity (upstream). Channelization strongly affected floristic richness on the basis of biological type (vascular plants, bryophytes, macroalgae) and ecomorphological type (hydrophytes, helophytes) at the pool/riffle sequence scale. Channelization led to taxonomic shifts and loss of biodiversity. Vascular plant taxa such as Helosciadium nodiflorum and Berula erecta were replaced by opportunist taxa such as Potamogeton crispus in channelized reaches. Combinations of channelization structures affected the stream plant assemblages less than did individual structures, a result that suggested compensatory effects. Our study supports the idea that channelization must be accompanied by measures that preserve the initial physical conditions of streams and the natural plant community composition.
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