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Environmental Determinants of Emergent Macrophyte Vegetation in Pacific Northwest Estuarine Tidal Wetlands

Abstract

We investigated whether within wetland environmental conditions or surrounding land cover measured at multiple scales were more influential in structuring regional vegetation patterns in estuarine tidal wetlands in the Pacific Northwest, USA. Surrounding land cover was characterized at the 100, 250, and 1,000 m, and watershed buffer scales. Vegetation communities were characterized by high species richness, lack of monotypic zonation, and paucity of invasive species. The number of species per site ranged between 4 and 20 (mean ± standard deviation = 10.2 ± 3.1). Sites supported a high richness (mean richness of native species 8.7 ± 2.8) and abundance of native macrophytes (mean relative abundance 85 % ± 19 %). Vegetation assemblages were dominated by a mix of grasses, sedges, and herbs with Sarcocornia pacifica and Distichlis spicata being common at sites in the oceanic zone of the estuary and Carex lyngbyei and Agrostis stolonifera being common at the fresher sites throughout the study area. The vegetation community was most strongly correlated with salinity and land cover within close proximity to the study site and less so with land cover variables at the watershed scale. Total species richness and richness of native species were negatively correlated with the amount of wetland in the buffer at all scales, while abundance of invasive species was significantly correlated to within wetland factors, including salinity and dissolved phosphorus concentrations. Landscape factors related to anthropogenic disturbances were only important at the 100-m buffer scale, with anthropogenic disturbances further from the wetland not being influential in shaping the vegetation assemblage. Our research suggests that the traditional paradigms of tidal wetland vegetation structure and environmental determinants developed in east coast US tidal wetlands might not hold true for Pacific Northwest wetlands due to their unique chemical and physical factors, necessitating further detailed study of these systems.

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Correspondence to Christine L. Weilhoefer.

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Weilhoefer, C.L., Nelson, W.G., Clinton, P. et al. Environmental Determinants of Emergent Macrophyte Vegetation in Pacific Northwest Estuarine Tidal Wetlands. Estuaries and Coasts 36, 377–389 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-012-9569-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-012-9569-9

Keywords

  • Land use
  • Salinity gradients
  • Species diversity
  • Vegetation cover
  • Wetlands
  • USA
  • Oregon