Plant Ecology

, Volume 214, Issue 3, pp 433–442 | Cite as

Effects of salinity and clipping on biomass and competition between a halophyte and a glycophyte

  • Ashleigh A. Gilbert
  • Lauchlan H. FraserEmail author


Global climate change will likely result in the reduction of water levels in intermountain wetlands and ponds, and the vegetation communities associated with these wetlands are an important forage source for livestock. Lowered water levels will not only constrict wetland plant communities, it will potentially change aquatic and soil salt concentrations. Such an increase in salinity can reduce plant growth and potentially affect competitive interactions between plants. A greenhouse experiment examined the effects of salinity and competition on the growth of two wet meadow grass species, Poa pratensis (a glycophyte) and Puccinellia nuttalliana (a halophyte). The following hypotheses based on published data were tested: (1) Biomass of both species will decrease with increasing concentration of salt; (2) root:shoot (R:S) ratio of P. pratensis will decrease with increasing salt concentration while R:S ratio of P. pratensis and P. nuttalliana will increase with clipping; (3) competitive importance will decrease for P. pratensis and P. nuttalliana with increasing salt concentration because salt induces a stress response and competitive importance is reduced in stressed environments. A factorial design included 3 plant treatments (P. nuttalliana alone, P. pratentsis alone, P. nuttalliana + P. pratensis) × 4 salinity rates (control; 5, 10, 15 g/L NaCl) × 2 clipping intensities (plants clipped or not clipped) for a total of 24 combinations replicated 6 times over a period of 90 days. We found a reduction in dry biomass as salinity increased, and this effect was greatest for P. pratensis. (1.94 g (SE 0.13) at 0 g/L NaCl to 0.22 g (SE 0.11) at 15 g/L NaCl). The R:S ratio of P. pratensis was reduced by salinity, but not for P. nuttalliana. Competitive importance of both species was reduced by clipping and by salinity, but the effect was greater and more consistent for P. pratensis. We conclude that salt concentration reduces plant growth and the effect of competition.


Poa pratensis Puccinellia nuttalliana Climate change Competitive importance Cattle grazing 



We thank Roy Turkington, Brian Heise, and Darryl Carlyle-Moses for constructive comments on an earlier version, and two anonymous reviewers. The work was funded by Ducks Unlimited Canada, Institute for Wetlands and Wildlife Research, the British Columbia Forest Investment Account, Forest Science Program, a National Science and Engineering Discovery Grant to LHF and a Canadian Foundation for Innovation grant to LHF.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biology and Natural Resource SciencesThompson Rivers UniversityKamloopsCanada

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