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Józef Koc, Szymon Kobus and Katarzyna Glińska-Lewczuk

The significance of oxbow lakes for the ecosystem of afforested river valleys

The interest in significance of forest areas in water quality improvement has been increasing since creation of biogeochemical barriers became effective tools against the input of pollutants to surface water from diffuse sources. Along meandering river valleys, numerous floodplain lakes often appear as valuable water ecosystems but of advanced eutrophy. Their trophic status depends not only on the hydrological connectivity with the river but also land use in the direct vicinity of the reservoir. Research on water ecosystems in the postglacial river valleys in northern Poland contributed to identification of the role of woodland area in pollutants migration in the valley of the łyna River.

The study on the ecosystem concerned seasonal variation in nutrient concentrations (N and P) and bottom sediments properties in relation to hydrological conditions (water level fluctuations). Based on the collected data we attempted prediction of the reservoir lifetime. Depending on hydrological, geological and topographic conditions the origin of water supply of the basin is changing. Annual water level fluctuations in the range of 200 cm cause the basin capacity variation as much as 5 times. Nevertheless, water quality in the lake was conditioned by the riverine supply, the significant share in the lake feeding has groundwater supply from hillslope aquifer and seepage through alluvial aquifer. Contribution of every origin supply depends on river flow rate and valley water level, it depends on alluvial ground formations permeability and relief. Hillslope erosion of the concave bank was responsible for high nitrogen and phosphorus outflows. The research showed that primary and secondary production and freshets contributed to intensive deposition of bottom sediments in oxbow lake. The increase rate of sediment determined on the base of matter balance was 10 times higher than deposition rate of bottom sediments in glacial lakes. The accelerated processes of silting-up and shallowing and terrestialization of the valuable ecosystems indicate the necessity of floodpain lakes protection due to ecological functions they play in forestry landscape.