The ability of common oligohaline marsh macrophytes of the northern Gulf of Mexico coast to recover from pulses of increased salinity was investigated in a greenhouse experiment with Eleocharis palustris, Panicum hemitomon, Sagittaria lancifolia, and Scirpus americanus monocultures. Components of salinity pulses applied were 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). After each exposure period, we placed plants into freshwater until the end of the 120-d experiment to determine recovery potential. The four species varied in their ability to recover from the salinity pulses. Within a species, recovery varied with final salinity level and duration of exposure, and to a lesser extent with salinity influx rate. Scirpus americanus, growth of which was stimulated by <3 mo of exposure to 6 g/L, was able to recover even under the most extreme conditions of exposure to 12 g/L salinity for 3 mo. Ability to recover decreased with increased salinity and increased duration of exposure for the remaining three species. Recovery of specific aspects of growth was also suppressed in these species by a rapid salinity influx rate compared to a slow influx rate. The complex variations in recovery patterns displayed by the different species may lead to changes in species dominance following the short-term salinity pulses that can occur during storm events, which in turn may affect marsh plant community composition and structure.
Additional publication details
Salinity as a constraint on growth of oligohaline marsh macrophytes. II. Salt pulses and recovery potential