Spartina alterniflora genotype influences facilitation and suppression of high marsh species colonizing an early successional salt marsh

Journal of Ecology
By: , and 



  1. Genetically based phenotypic and ecotypic variation in a dominant plant species can influence ecological functions and patterns of recruitment by other species in plant communities. However, the nature and degree of importance of genotypic differences is poorly understood in most systems.
  2. The dominant salt marsh species, Spartina alterniflora, is known to induce facilitative and competitive effects in different plant species, and the outcomes of interactions can be affected by nutrients and flooding stress. Clonal genotypes, which maintained their different plant architecture phenotypes throughout 31 months of a field experiment, underwent considerable genet‐specific senescence in their centres over the last 12 months.
  3. Different clonal genotypes and different locations (robust edges vs. senescent centres) permitted significantly different levels of light penetration of the canopy (14.8–77.6%), thus establishing spatial heterogeneity for this important environmental factor.
  4. S. alterniflora clonal genotype influenced the degree of suppression of the previously dominant Salicornia bigelovii as well as facilitation of recruitment and growth by other plant species. Aster subulatus and Atriplex patula performed better in Spartinaclone centres, and experienced reduced growth in Salicornia‐dominated areas.
  5. Four other high marsh species (Borrichia frutescensAster tenuifoliusIva frutescensand Limonium carolinianum) colonized only into Spartina clones but not into the Salicornia‐dominated area.
  6. These results suggest that differences in clone size, centre senescence, stem density, height, total stem length and biomass in different genotypes of a dominant marsh plant species can influence recruitment and growth of other plant species. The spatial pattern of habitat heterogeneity is, at least in part, dependent on the genotypic diversity, and possibly the genetic diversity, of such foundation species.
  7. We hypothesize that as genotypic diversity increases in populations of a dominant plant species like S. alterniflora, the number and diversity of interactions with other species will increase as well.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Spartina alterniflora genotype influences facilitation and suppression of high marsh species colonizing an early successional salt marsh
Series title Journal of Ecology
DOI 10.1111/j.0022-0477.2005.00983.x
Volume 93
Issue 2
Year Published 2005
Language English
Contributing office(s) National Wetlands Research Center, Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
Description 13 p.
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Journal of Ecology
First page 404
Last page 416
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