Multiple Environmental Variables Affect Germination and Mortality of an Annual Salt Marsh Pioneer: Salicornia procumbens

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Abstract

Salt marshes, providing numerous ecosystem services, are degrading worldwide. To effectively aid conservation and restoration efforts, increased knowledge on marsh expansion processes and the initial establishment of pioneer vegetation is essential. In this study, we disentangle environmental drivers that affect the lifecycle of the annual pioneer Salicornia procumbens at the salt marsh edge. We studied the effect of various environmental variables on the start of germination, germination success and mortality before seed-set in a field experiment in the DutchWadden Sea atWesthoek. Our results indicate that temperature and sedimentation inhibited the initiation of germination. Once germination occurred, higher precipitation rates increased germination success. In contrast,
sedimentation rates above 0.5 mm day−1 halved germination success through burial of freshly sprouted seedlings. Unexpectedly, natural germination was low, indicating that seed availability may have been limited, despite a seed source nearby. Frequent inundation, extended periods without inundation (through desiccation of the soil) and a highly dynamic bed level increased mortality before
seed-set. Consequently, bed-level dynamics (erosion, sedimentation and bed-level variation) impact seed production dually (decrease germination and increase mortality) and thus potentially reproduction success. A high seed reproduction is crucial for annuals, such as S. procumbens, to re-establish the following year. Next to advancing our general knowledge of natural salt marsh expansion, results in this study can also be used to assess the potential of a given site for saltmarsh stimulation or restoration. Seed availability and local bedlevel dynamics are key in the successful establishment of a salt marsh pioneer: Salicornia procumbens.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalEstuaries and coasts
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Apr 2020

Keywords

  • Salt marsh
  • Annual
  • sediment dynamics
  • intertidal flat
  • Inundation regime
  • seedling recruitment

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