The effects of increased salinity on plant growth were examined in a greenhouse experiment with four species common to oligohaline marshes of the northern Gulf of Mexico: Eleocharis palustris, Panicum hemitomon, Sagittaria lancifolia, and Scirpus americanus. Effects of final salinity reached (6 or 12 g/L), salinity influx rate (3 d or 3 wk), and duration of exposure (1, 2, or 3 mo) were investigated. Sagittaria lancifolia was the first species to show visible signs of stress, with browning and curling of older leaf edges. The salt effect was delayed for 6-8 wk in P. hemitomon, but this species had the highest aboveground tissue mortality rate at 12 g/L as exposure continued. Final salt concentration affected all species to a greater degree than did salinity influx rate. No aboveground mortality occurred at 6 g/L, but growth suppression was apparent and varied with species. The magnitude of growth suppression in response to salinity increased for all species as the duration of exposure increased. Overall, we ranked the species as follows, in order from least to most salt tolerant: Panicum hemitomon < Sagittaria lancifolia < Eleocharis palustris < Scirpus americanus. This ranking reflects the field occurrence of these species along a gradient of increasing salinity in northern Gulf of Mexico coastal habitats from freshwater wetlands through oligohaline areas to mesohaline wetlands.
Additional Publication Details
Salinity as a constraint on growth of oligohaline marsh macrophytes. I. Species variation in stress tolerance