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Response of three arid zone floodplain plant species to inundation


For species to persist on floodplains and in temporary wetlands in arid climates, where large and unpredictable water level fluctuations are common, at least one life history stage must be able to survive inundation. We investigated the survival and performance (RGR, total biomass and above-to-belowground biomass (A:B)) of three common and often coexisting arid zone floodplain species: Xanthium strumarium, Cyperus gymnocaulos and Ludwigia peploides. Observations suggested the species had different responses to inundation, which was tested in a controlled pond experiment. Plants were held at three elevations (+ 10 cm, − 20 and − 70 cm) and subjected to three hydrological regimes (static 90 cm, 1 and 5 cm day−1 inundation) for 16 weeks. Xanthium strumarium died when completely inundated for longer than 4 weeks but when partially flooded survived, showed lower growth rates, increased A:B and produced adventitious roots. C. gymnocaulos showed reduced growth rates when partially flooded and senesced to rhizomes when completely inundated for longer than 4 weeks, which re-sprouted after inundation pressure was removed. L. peploides responded positively to flooding with increased A:B and the production of adventitious roots. The species exhibited three contrasting responses to inundation, which do not necessarily fit neatly within existing water regime functional classification frameworks.

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This study was funded by the Murray–Darling Basin Authority and JMN was supported by a Faculty of Science Scholarship (The University of Adelaide). The authors also thank Ben Taylor, Kane Aldridge Che Biggs and Grant Pelton for field assistance and the two anonymous referees for constructive comments on an early draft of this paper.

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Correspondence to Jason M. Nicol.

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Communicated by Anne Bonis.

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Nicol, J.M., Ganf, G.G., Walker, K.F. et al. Response of three arid zone floodplain plant species to inundation. Plant Ecol 219, 57–67 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11258-017-0777-z

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  • Inundation
  • Xanthium strumarium
  • Cyperus gymnocaulos
  • Ludwigia peploides