, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 445–458 | Cite as

Characterization of Schoenoplectus pungens in a Great Lakes Coastal Wetland and a Pacific Northwestern Estuary

  • Dennis A. AlbertEmail author
  • Daniel T. Cox
  • Todd Lemein
  • Hyun-Doug Yoon


This study seeks to identify key components of structure and growth habit of Schoenoplectus pungens (bulrush) that allow it to thrive in severe environments. Schoenoplectus pungens, an emergent herbaceous plant growing in shallow, high energy freshwater and brackish coastal wetlands, occurs throughout North America and several continents. We observe the plant in ecologically distinctive Laurentian Great Lakes and Pacific Northwestern estuaries. Plant populations were characterized in terms of above-ground and below-ground biomass, stem density, diameter, height, and flexibility. Plants grown in flooded planters for research were compared with populations in their natural environments. The modulus of elasticity was found to be similar for planter- and wild-grown plants from fresh and brackish waters. Aerenchyma tissue, important for conducting oxygen to roots, increased with flooding and possibly reduced stem flexibility. Stem diameter and height increased as water depths or flooding increased, while below-ground biomass decreased. Soils ranging from coarse gravels to clays supported S. pungens. Most regeneration occurs as sprouts from rhizomes, not seedlings. Below-ground biomass accounted for a greater proportion of total biomass than above-ground biomass in most zones. This study collected large below-ground biomass samples that allowed for more effective evaluation of root and rhizome structure than traditional small samples.


Bulrushes Great Lakes coastal wetlands Pacific Northwestern estuaries Biomass Aerenchyma Young’s modulus of elasticity 



This research was supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. CMMI-0828549. The authors gratefully acknowledge the work of Lukas Bell-Dereske and Lindsey Croghan, both supported by NSF REU supplements, and David Tolle supported by an RET supplement to conduct preliminary field work, Clair Thomas for assistance on Tillamook bathymetry, and Kathy Cook, who processed bulrush thin sections. Dan Cox gratefully acknowledges support by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and his hosts at the Disaster Prevention Research Institute of Kyoto University during manuscript preparation. Kerri Bridges, Munki Kim, Sean Kim, Hayden Ausland, Sean Laguna, Agnimitro Chakrabarti, Getnet Agegnehu and Heather Smith assisted in stem height and diameter measurements. Shane Lishawa, Doug Wilcox, and a anonymous reviewer provided insightful review. Students in the Great Lakes coastal wetland class at the University of Michigan Biological Station assisted with collection of biomass data at Cecil Bay.


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Copyright information

© Society of Wetland Scientists 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dennis A. Albert
    • 1
    Email author
  • Daniel T. Cox
    • 1
  • Todd Lemein
    • 1
  • Hyun-Doug Yoon
    • 2
  1. 1.Oregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  2. 2.Myongji UniversityYongin-siRepublic of Korea

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