, Volume 25, Issue 6, pp 1174-1183

Halophyte recruitment in a salt marsh restoration site

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Abstract

In restored salt marshes, seedling recruitment can be limited where large areas of soil are exposed and physical conditions are harsh. On a 0.7-ha excavated marsh plain, we studied recruitment as a function of abiotic (elevation) and biotic factors in 2 × 2 m plots planted with 0, 1, 3, or 6 species from the pool of 8 native halophytes. The random draws of 3-species and 6-species assemblages produced approximately equal numbers of plants per species for the experiment as a whole, yet only three species recruited> 10 seedlings per plot.Salicornia virginica andSalicornia bigelovii each produced> 15,000 seedlings in 1998, andSuaeda esteroa produced> 2,500 seedlings in 1999. For these 3 species, seedling recruitment increased with elevation in 1998, but this trend weakened in 1999, when species richness affected recruitment (fewer seedlings in more species-rich plots). Abiotic effects preceded biotic interactions in determining seedling recruitment patterns early in the development of the salt marsh. Effects of species richness appeared to be scale-dependent in that having all species present in the site likely enhanced overall recruitment (all species had 2 or more seedlings), while plantings of 6 species in a 2 × 2 m plot reduced seedling density.S. virginica was the only species that increased its presence and relative cover in the experimental site over the 4-yr study. Protocols for planting southern California salt marsh restoration sites could omit this species, but all others probably need to be introduced to restore diverse vegetation.