Geographia Polonica (2006) vol. 79, iss. 2

Changes of the Vistula river channel and floodplain in the last 200 years

Adam Łajczak, Joanna Plit, Roman Soja, Leszek Starkel, Justyna Warowna

Geographia Polonica (2006) vol. 79, iss. 2, pp. 65-87 | Full text

Abstract

The Vistula River is a typical Central-European river flowing from the mountains acrossbasins and upland belts to the lowlands. The Vistula valley is modelled by a river with a complexhydrological regime. In its upper reaches, floods driven by summer rainfall prevail, while in thelower reaches snowmelt floods are important. Deforestation favoured a natural propensity forriver braiding. In the mid-19th century, the channelization of the upper Vistula (in the Carpathianforeland) and the lower reaches was commenced with, while the middle streach was leftin a natural state, such that the river has in places preserved a braided pattern up to the presentday. The channelization followed by construction of reservoirs caused downcutting and aggradationto occur, such that opposing tendencies were observed in particular reaches of the riverchannel. In addition, flood embankments confined aggradation to the intra-embankment area.Thus, the functioning of the Vistula River system is largely controlled by diverse human activity.Unconstrained flow and river load transport along the whole river length are only partly possibleduring extreme floods. The present-day adjustment tendencies also relate to ongoing changes inland-use in the drainage basin, as well as on global climatic changes.

Keywords: Vistula River, channelization/regulation, present-day changes of floodplain, downcutting, aggradation

Adam Łajczak [alajczak@up.krakow.pl], Institute of Geography Pedagogical University of Krakow Podchorążych 2, 30 -084 Krakow: Poland
Joanna Plit [plitjo@twarda.pan.pl], Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization Polish Academy of Sciences, 00-818 Warsaw, Twarda 51/55, Poland
Roman Soja [soja@zg.pan.krakow.pl], Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization Polish Academy of Sciences, 31-018 Krakow, Sw. Jana 22, Poland
Leszek Starkel [starkel@zg.pan.krakow.pl], Institute of Geography and Spatial Organization Polish Academy of Sciences, 31-018 Krakow, Sw. Jana 22, Poland