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    Accès libre
    Topsoil structure stability in a restored floodplain: Impacts of fluctuatingwater levels, soil parameters and ecosystem engineers
    Ecosystem services provided byfloodplains are strongly controlled by the structural stability of soils. The developmentof a stable structure infloodplain soils is affected by a complex and poorly understood interplay of hydrological,physico-chemical and biological processes. This paper aims at analysing relations betweenfluctuating groundwaterlevels, soil physico-chemical and biological parameters on soil structure stability in a restoredfloodplain. Water levelfluctuations in the soil are modelled using a numerical surface-water–groundwaterflow model and correlated tosoil physico-chemical parameters and abundances of plants and earthworms. Causal relations and multiple interactionsbetween the investigated parameters are tested through structural equation modelling (SEM). Fluctuating water levelsin the soil did not directly affect the topsoil structure stability, but indirectly through affecting plant roots and soil pa-rameters that in turn determine topsoil structure stability. These relations remain significant for mean annual days ofcomplete and partial (N25%) water saturation. Ecosystem functioning of a restoredfloodplain might already be affectedby thefluctuation of groundwater levels alone, and not only through completeflooding by surface water during afloodperiod. Surprisingly, abundances of earthworms did notshow any relation to other variables in the SEM. Thesefindingsemphasise that earthworms have efficiently adapted to periodic stress and harsh environmental conditions. Variabilityof the topsoil structure stability is thus stronger driven by the influence offluctuating water levels on plants than by theabundance of earthworms. This knowledge about the functional network of soil engineering organisms, soil parametersandfluctuating water levels and how they affect soil structural stability is of fundamental importance to define man-agement strategies of near-natural or restoredfloodplains in the future.