Can Plant Competition and Diversity Reduce the Growth and Survival of Exotic Phragmites australis Invading a Tidal Marsh?
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- Peter, C.R. & Burdick, D.M. Estuaries and Coasts (2010) 33: 1225. doi:10.1007/s12237-010-9328-8
The rapid proliferation of Phragmites australis in North America has challenged resource managers to curb its expansion and reduce the loss of functional tidal marsh. We investigated whether native plant competition could reduce the ability of Phragmites to invade a tidal marsh, and if plant diversity (species richness, evenness, and composition) altered the competitive outcome. Immature Phragmites shoots and four native halophytes were transplanted to small but dense field plots (~1,200 shoots m−2) comprising three community structure types (Phragmites alone, Phragmites + 1 native species, and Phragmites + 4 native species). Interspecific competition significantly reduced Phragmites aboveground biomass, shoot length production, density, and survival by approximately 60%. Additionally, plots planted with greater native diversity contained Phragmites with the lowest growth and survival, potentially indicating diversity-enhanced resource competition. Competition consistently reduced the growth of Phragmites even under favorable conditions: lack of strong tidal flooding stresses as well as elevated nutrient pools.