, Volume 175, Issue 1, pp 335–343 | Cite as

Herbivory affects salt marsh succession dynamics by suppressing the recovery of dominant species

  • Pedro DaleoEmail author
  • Juan Alberti
  • Jesús Pascual
  • Alejandro Canepuccia
  • Oscar Iribarne
Community ecology - Original research


Disturbance can generate heterogeneous environments and profoundly influence plant diversity by creating patches at different successional stages. Herbivores, in turn, can govern plant succession dynamics by determining the rate of species replacement, ultimately affecting plant community structure. In a south-western Atlantic salt marsh, we experimentally evaluated the role of herbivory in the recovery following disturbance of the plant community and assessed whether herbivory affects the relative importance of sexual and clonal reproduction on these dynamics. Our results show that herbivory strongly affects salt marsh secondary succession by suppressing seedlings and limiting clonal colonization of the dominant marsh grass, allowing subordinate species to dominate disturbed patches. These results demonstrate that herbivores can have an important role in salt marsh community structure and function, and can be a key force during succession dynamics.


Community structure Secondary succession Colonization Spartina 



We are grateful to B. Silliman and three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on the manuscript. The experiments comply with the current laws of the country, Argentina, in which the experiments were performed. This project was supported by grants from the Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata, CONICET and ANPCyT.

Supplementary material

442_2014_2903_MOESM1_ESM.doc (88 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 88 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pedro Daleo
    • 1
    Email author
  • Juan Alberti
    • 1
  • Jesús Pascual
    • 1
  • Alejandro Canepuccia
    • 1
  • Oscar Iribarne
    • 1
  1. 1.Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras, CONICET-UNMDPMar del PlataArgentina

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