Biomechanical properties of aquatic plants and their effects on plant–flow interactions in streams and rivers

Oliver Miler, Ismail Albayrak, Vladimir Nikora, Matthew O'Hare

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Citations (Scopus)


We analysed the biomechanical properties of aquatic plant stems of four common submerged river macrophyte species with bending, tension and cyclic loading/unloading tests and related these properties to the hydraulic habitats of the plants. The studied species included Glyceria fluitans, Ranunculus penicillatus, Myriophyllum alterniflorum and Fontinalis antipyretica. Habitat assessment shows that these species occur in a range from low to high flow velocities, respectively. G. fluitans is a semi-aquatic species with stems of a high flexural rigidity and high breaking force and breaking stress that enable them to carry their own weight and balance gravity when growing upright in slow flowing rivers. G. fluitans may also grow horizontally often producing emerged terrestrial stems. In contrast, F. antipyretica grows in fierce water flow. Its stems have the highest flexibility, a significantly higher ‘tension’ Young’s modulus, breaking stress and work of fracture and a lower plastic deformation compared to M. alterniflorum and R. penicillatus. These traits enable F. antipyretica to survive even in swift flowing streams and constrict the growth of M. alterniflorum and R. penicillatus to the river reaches with moderate flow velocities. R. penicillatus has a weak bottom part with a low breaking force and breaking stress acting as a predetermined breaking point and enabling seasonal regrowth from root parts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-44
Number of pages14
JournalAquatic Sciences
Issue number1
Early online date2 Mar 2011
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012


  • biomechanics
  • flow
  • macrophyte
  • drag
  • reconfiguration
  • flexibility


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