Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 32, Issue 5, pp 917–925 | Cite as

Salt Spray Induces Osmotic Adjustment and Tissue Rigidity in Smooth Cordgrass, Spartina alterniflora (Loisel.)

  • Brant W. Touchette
  • Kirsten L. Rhodes
  • Gracen A. Smith
  • Mariana Poole


Salt spray is one of many abiotic factors that can influence plant productivity and species composition in coastal ecosystems. However, little is known about how marsh plants respond physiologically to the accumulation of sea aerosols on foliar tissues. In this study, experimental microcosms maintained in controlled greenhouse conditions were used to evaluate how low- (1.7 mg dm−2 day−1, weekly averages) and high- (8.6 mg dm−2 day−1) salt-spray loads would influence plant–water relations in Spartina alterniflora (Loisel.). While no differences in plant performance (e.g., changes in biomass and leaf area) were observed between the treatments and control plants, a number of physiological modifications attributed to salt spray were observed. In general, salt-treated plants underwent significant decreases in water potential (Ψ) and osmotic potential (Ψ π) and increases in leaf conductance (g) and bulk modulus of elasticity (ε). It is likely that these physiological responses were used to generate lower Ψ while maintaining osmotic and water homeostasis. That is, by decreasing Ψ π and increasing g and ε, more efficient water flow through the soil–plant–atmosphere continuum can be achieved, thus generating lower Ψ without promoting loss of turgor.


Coastal salt marshes Spartina alterniflora Plant–water relations Salt spray Water balance Water potential 



Leaf conductance




Turgor pressure


Dry weight


Fresh weight


Turgid weight


Bulk modulus of elasticity


Relative water content


Symplastic water content


Water potential


Leaf water potential


Xylem water potential


Turgor potential


Osmotic potential


Osmotic potential at full saturation


Osmotic potential at turgor loss point



This study was supported by the North Carolina Sea Grant and the Elon University Center for Environmental Studies. We are grateful to S. Russell (Elon University) for providing laboratory assistance and J. Coker (Elon University) for kindly providing the materials.


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brant W. Touchette
    • 1
    • 2
  • Kirsten L. Rhodes
    • 2
  • Gracen A. Smith
    • 2
  • Mariana Poole
    • 2
  1. 1.Center for Environmental StudiesElon UniversityElonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesElon UniversityElonUSA

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