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Response and resilience of Spartina alterniflora to sudden dieback

June 25, 2016

We measured an array of biophysical and spectral variables to evaluate the response and recovery of Spartina alterniflora to a sudden dieback event in spring and summer 2004 within a low marsh in coastal Virginia, USA. S. alterniflora is a foundation species, whose loss decreases ecosystem services and potentiates ecosystem state change. Long-term records of the potential environmental drivers of dieback such as precipitation and tidal inundation did not evidence any particular anomalies, although Hurricane Isabel in fall 2003 may have been related to dieback. Transects were established across the interface between the dieback area and apparently healthy areas of marsh. Plant condition was classified based on ground cover within transects as dieback, intermediate and healthy. Numerous characteristics of S. alterniflora culms within each condition class were assessed including biomass, morphology and spectral attributes associated with photosynthetic pigments. Plants demonstrated evidence of stress in 2004 and 2005 beyond areas of obvious dieback and resilience at a multi-year scale. Resilience of the plants was evident in recovery of ground cover and biomass largely within 3 y, although a small remnant of dieback persisted for 8 y. Culms surviving within the dieback and areas of intermediate impact had modified morphological traits and spectral response that reflected stress. These morphometric and spectral differences among plant cover condition classes serve as guidelines for monitoring of dieback initiation, effects and subsequent recovery. Although a number of environmental and biotic parameters were assessed relative to causation, the reason for this particular dieback remains largely unknown, however.

Publication Year 2016
Title Response and resilience of Spartina alterniflora to sudden dieback
DOI 10.1007/s11852-016-0445-9
Authors Amanda Marsh, Linda K. Blum, Robert R. Christian, Elijah W. Ramsey, Amina Rangoonwala
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Coastal Conservation
Index ID 70176240
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Wetland and Aquatic Research Center