Accommodation space limits plant invasion: Ammophila arenaria survival on New Zealand beaches
Ammophila arenaria (marram grass) may invade remote beach-dune systems by the marine dispersal of rhizomes. In New Zealand, and elsewhere, the conservation of the remaining dune systems of high conservation value would be advanced by predicting where this species might successfully establish and undertaking appropriate surveillance. This paper examines the ability of A. arenaria to sustain growth in the stressful back-beach environment.
Shoots developed from rhizomes were subjected to burial, depth, salt spray and desiccation treatments in the glasshouse. Plants were also subjected to salt water inundation. Two field populations of A. arenaria were surveyed for a period of almost 3 years, following rhizome stranding in July 2007.
Shoots were able to emerge from depths of up to 40 cm. Rhizomes failed to produce shoots when the moisture content of rhizomes was less than 18.25 %, which occurred after 3 days of drought. The survival of buried plants was significantly reduced compared to non-buried plants when burial exceeded 80 % of the plant height. No plants survived when burial exceeded 100 % of the plant height. No tillers survived without water for more than 3 weeks. Exposure to salt spray had no effect on shoot survival. Immersion in seawater significantly reduced survival—exposure to seawater, equivalent to only one high tide immersion event, was sufficient to reduce plant survival in the glasshouse.
Burial, desiccation and salt-spray may, on occasion, be responsible for either preventing the regeneration of A. arenaria rhizomes or limiting the survival of the resultant plants, but exposure to wave activity determines the viability of a population.
KeywordsMarram grass Invasion Rhizome Marine dispersal
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