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Testing the interactive effects of flooding and salinity on tidal marsh plant productivity

March 2, 2020

Tidal wetlands support plant communities that facilitate carbon storage, accrete soil, and provide habitat for terrestrial and aquatic species. Climate change is likely to alter estuaries through sea-level rise and changing precipitation patterns, although the ecological responses are uncertain. We were interested in plant responses to physiological stress induced by elevated water salinity and flooding conditions, which may be more prevalent under climate change. . We used a greenhouse experiment and factorial flooding (1, 12, 24, and 48 % time) and salinity (0, 5, 15, 30 PSU) treatments to evaluate the productivity responses of three emergent herbaceous species (Carex lyngbyei, Triglochin maritima, and Argentina pacifica) common to tidal marshes of the Pacific Northwest, USA. We measured weekly changes in plant height and final above and belowground biomass for all species after 10 weeks. Increased salinity reduced final above and belowground biomass significantly in all three species, with A. pacifica responding the most, followed by C. lyngbyei and T. maritima. Increased flooding also reduced total biomass in A. pacifica and T. maritima. There was a significant response in C. lyngbyei aboveground biomass and A. pacifica height to the flooding-salinity interaction. These results indicate emergent plant community composition may change in response to novel climate conditions in estuaries, driven by distinct physiological tolerances to salinity and flooding, and highlight the importance of considering multiple climate drivers when projecting ecosystem change. This may be especially true for estuaries that currently have prolonged freshwater phases like those in the Pacific Northwest.

Publication Year 2020
Title Testing the interactive effects of flooding and salinity on tidal marsh plant productivity
DOI 10.1016/j.aquabot.2020.103231
Authors Kevin J. Buffington, Arianna C Goodman, Chase M. Freeman, Karen M. Thorne
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Aquatic Botany
Index ID 70217319
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center