Growth Characteristics and Salt Tolerance of Two Reciprocally Invasive Grass Species Found in Coastal Salt Marshes
KeywordsSoil, Water & Environmental Science
Committee ChairGlenn, Edward P.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractAn invasive variety of the common reed Phragmites australis, the M haplotpye, has been implicated in the spread of this species into North American salt marshes normally dominated by the salt marsh grass Spartina alterniflora (smooth cordgrass). Phragmites australis is spreading into North American coastal marshes that are experiencing reduced salinities, while Spartina spp. are spreading into northern European brackish marshes that are experiencing increased salinities. We compared the salt tolerance and other growth characteristics of the invasive, M haplotype with two native haplotypes (F and AC) in greenhouse experiments. The M haplotype retained 50% of its growth potential up to 0.4 M NaCl, whereas the F and AC haplotypes did not grow above 0.1 M NaCl. The M haplotype produced more shoots per gram of rhizome tissue and had higher relative growth rates than the native haplotypes on both freshwater and saline water treatments. The M haplotype also differed from the native haplotypes in shoot water content and the biometrics of shoots and rhizomes. The results offer an explanation for how the M haplotype is able to spread in coastal salt marshes and support the conclusion of DNA analyses that the M haplotype is a distinct ecotype of P. australis.We then compared the growth, competitive ability, salt tolerance and osmotic adjustment of M haplotype P. australis and S. alterniflora along a salinity gradient in greenhouse experiments. Spartina alterniflora produced new biomass up to 0.60 M NaCl, whereas P. australis did not grow well above 0.2 M NaCl. When the two species were grown in mixed cultures, P. australis was less affected by competition than S. alterniflora at lower salinities but the competitive advantage reversed above 0.2 M NaCl. The greater salt tolerance of S. alterniflora compared to P. australis was due to its ability to use Na+ for osmotic adjustment in the shoots. On the other hand, at low salinities P. australis was more competitive because it produced more shoots per gram of rhizome tissue than S. alterniflora. These studies illustrate how ecophysiological differences shift the competitive advantage from one species to another along a salinity gradient.
Degree ProgramSoil, Water & Environmental Science