Genetic diversity within plant populations can influence plant community structure along environmental gradients. In wetland habitats, salinity and soil type are factors that can vary along gradients and therefore affect plant growth. To test for intraspecific growth variation in response to these factors, a greenhouse study was conducted using common plants that occur in northern Gulf of Mexico brackish and salt marshes. Individual plants of Distichlis spicata, Phragmites australis, Schoenoplectus californicus, and Schoenoplectus robustus were collected from several locations along the coast in Louisiana, USA. Plant identity, based on collection location, was used as a measure of intraspecific variability. Prepared soil mixtures were organic, silt, or clay, and salinity treatments were 0 or 18 psu. Significant intraspecific variation in stem number, total stem height, or biomass was found in all species. Within species, response to soil type varied, but increased salinity significantly decreased growth in all individuals. Findings indicate that inclusion of multiple genets within species is an important consideration for marsh restoration projects that include vegetation plantings. This strategy will facilitate establishment of plant communities that have the flexibility to adapt to changing environmental conditions and, therefore, are capable of persisting over time. ?? Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2009.
Additional publication details
Intraspecific variation in growth of marsh macrophytes in response to salinity and soil type: Implications for wetland restoration