Oecologia

, Volume 163, Issue 1, pp 181–191

Abiotic stress mediates top-down and bottom-up control in a Southwestern Atlantic salt marsh

  • Juan Alberti
  • Agustina Méndez Casariego
  • Pedro Daleo
  • Eugenia Fanjul
  • Brian Silliman
  • Mark Bertness
  • Oscar Iribarne
Community ecology - Original paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00442-009-1504-9

Cite this article as:
Alberti, J., Méndez Casariego, A., Daleo, P. et al. Oecologia (2010) 163: 181. doi:10.1007/s00442-009-1504-9

Abstract

Increasing evidence has shown that nutrients and consumers interact to control primary productivity in natural systems, but how abiotic stress affects this interaction is unclear. Moreover, while herbivores can strongly impact zonation patterns in a variety of systems, there are few examples of this in salt marshes. We evaluated the effect of nutrients and herbivores on the productivity and distribution of the cordgrass Spartinadensiflora along an intertidal stress gradient, in a Southwestern Atlantic salt marsh. We characterized abiotic stresses (salinity, ammonium concentration, and anoxia) and manipulated nutrients and the presence of the herbivorous crab Neohelice (Chasmagnathus) granulata, at different tidal heights with a factorial experiment. Abiotic stress increased at both ends of the tidal gradient. Salinity and anoxia were highest at the upper and lower edge of the intertidal, respectively. Nutrients and herbivory interacted to control cordgrass biomass, but their relative importance varied with environmental context. Herbivory increased at lower tidal heights to the point that cordgrass transplants onto bare mud substrate were entirely consumed unless crabs were excluded, while nutrients were most important where abiotic stress was reduced. Our results show how the impact of herbivores and nutrients on plant productivity can be dependent on environmental conditions and that the lower intertidal limits of marsh plants can be controlled by herbivory.

Keywords

Herbivory Neohelice granulata Nutrients Spartina densiflora Tidal stress gradient 

Supplementary material

442_2009_1504_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (9 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 9 kb)
442_2009_1504_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (16 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 16 kb)
442_2009_1504_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (16 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (PDF 16 kb)
442_2009_1504_MOESM4_ESM.pdf (16 kb)
Supplementary material 4 (PDF 15 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juan Alberti
    • 1
    • 2
  • Agustina Méndez Casariego
    • 1
    • 2
  • Pedro Daleo
    • 1
    • 2
  • Eugenia Fanjul
    • 1
    • 2
  • Brian Silliman
    • 3
  • Mark Bertness
    • 4
  • Oscar Iribarne
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Laboratorio de Ecología, Departamento de Biología (FCEyN)Universidad Nacional de Mar del PlataMar del PlataArgentina
  2. 2.Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET)Ciudad de Buenos AiresArgentina
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  4. 4.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA