Effects of increased inundation and wrack deposition on a high salt marsh plant community
Salt marshes respond to both slowly increasing tidal inundation with sea level rise and abrupt disturbances, such as storm-induced wrack deposition. The effects of inundation pattern and wrack deposition have been studied independently but not in combination. We manipulated inundation of tidal creek water and wrack presence individually and in combination, in two neighboring communities within a Virginia high salt marsh during 1994 and 1995. The effects of these manipulations were assessed by measurements of aboveground plant biomass. Altered inundation by itself produced little response in the various categories of plant biomass measured. Wrack deposition affected all species (i.e., Juncus roemerianus, Spartina patens, and Distichlis spicata) showing a significant reduction in aboveground biomass, as expected. Recovery after wrack deposition was dependent on the species. S. patens and D. spicata recovered from wrack deposition within one growing season, while J. roemerianus did not. Because the effects of wrack deposition greatly exceeded those of experimentally increased inundation, the possible interactions between the two were masked. Increased inundation may have inhibited the colonization of bare areas by some species after the removal of wrack from an area, although statistical significance at α=0.01 was not reached. Our results confirm that wrack deposition can cause the redistribution of species within the high marsh community. Altered inundation may have a greater effect on the re-establishment of the plant community after wrack deposition than it does without wrack deposition.
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