Biological Invasions

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 51–68 | Cite as

Modification of Sediments and Macrofauna by an Invasive Marsh Plant

  • T.S. Talley
  • L.A. Levin


Invasive grasses have recently altered salt marsh ecosystems throughout the northern hemisphere. On the eastern seaboard of the USA, Phragmites australis has invaded both brackish and salt marsh habitats. Phragmites australis influence on sediments and fauna was investigated along a salinity and invasion-age gradient in marshes of the lower Connecticut River estuary. Typical salinities were about 19–24 ppt in Site I, 9–10 ppt in Site II and 5–7 ppt in Site III. Strongest effects were evident in the least saline settings (II and III) where Phragmites has been present the longest and exists in monoculture. Limited influence was evident in the most saline region (I) where Phragmites and native salt marsh plants co-occur. The vegetation within Phragmites stands in tidal regions of the Connecticut River generally exhibits taller, but less dense shoots, higher above-ground biomass, and lower below-ground biomass than does the un-invaded marsh flora. There were lower sediment organic content, greater litter accumulation and higher sediment chlorophyll a concentrations in Phragmites- invaded than un-invaded marsh habitat. Epifaunal gastropods (Succinea wilsoni and Stagnicola catascopium) were less abundant in habitats where Phragmites had invaded than in un-invaded marsh habitat. Macro-infaunal densities were lower in the Phragmites-invaded than un-invaded habitats at the two least saline sites (II and III). Phragmites stands supported more podurid insects, sabellid polychaetes, and peracarid crustaceans, fewer arachnids, midges, tubificid and enchytraeid oligochaetes, and greater habitat-wide taxon richness as measured by rarefaction, than did the un-invaded stands. The magnitude and significance of the compositional differences varied with season and with site; differences were generally greatest at the oldest, least saline sites (II and III) and during May, when faunal densities were higher than in September. However, experimental design and the 1-year study period precluded clear separation of salinity, age, and seasonal effects. Although structural effects of Phragmites on salt marsh faunas are evident, further investigation is required to determine the consequences of these effects for ecosystem function.

Connecticut habitat alteration invasion invertebrates Juncus gerardii New England Phragmites australis Spartina patens tidal marsh 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Marine Life Research GroupScripps Institution of OceanographyLa JollaUSA

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