Aquatic Ecology

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 315–324 | Cite as

Is spread of the neophyte Spartina anglica recently enhanced by increasing temperatures?

  • Martina Loebl
  • Justus E. E. van Beusekom
  • Karsten Reise


The introduced cordgrass Spartina anglica, a fertile hybrid of S. maritima and S. alterniflora, grows as a pioneer plant in the upper intertidal zone and has invaded most sheltered shorelines of the Wadden Sea. After its introduction in 1927 S. anglica has spread vigorously along the mainland shore and on some of the more southern islands. In contrast, it has later established on Sylt and spread at a lower pace. On the island of Sylt it occurs near at its northern limit in Europe. Due to rising sea level and storm frequency a decrease or steady state of S. anglica was expected because its niche is narrowing rather than widening and plants are more frequently eroded. Contrary to that, many new sites were colonized and dense monotypic swards have formed after 1985. This new spread coincided with a shift in the local temperature regime around 1987. The monthly mean temperature from January to April has increased significantly after 1987. Furthermore, the important physiological thresholds of 4 °C for germination and 7 °C for photosynthesis were more often exceeded during spring after 1987 than before. We suggest that warmer spring seasons since 1988 could have promoted germination, growth and the recent accelerated spread of this neophyte.


Invasive species Regime shift Salt marsh Spartina Temperature 


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The authors are indebted to V.N. de Jonge for his support during the revision of this manuscript. Comments by three anonymous reviewers are gratefully acknowledged. We would like to thank D. Lackschewitz for aerial photographs and a ground survey including some very helpful mappings of the cordgrass.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martina Loebl
    • 1
  • Justus E. E. van Beusekom
    • 1
  • Karsten Reise
    • 1
  1. 1.Alfred-Wegener-Institute for Polar and Marine ResearchWadden Sea Station SyltListGermany

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