Will inundation and salinity levels associated with projected sea level rise reduce the survival, growth, and reproductive capacity of Sarcocornia pacifica (pickleweed)?

Aquatic Botany
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Abstract

In the San Francisco Bay Estuary, CA, USA, sea level rise (SLR) is projected to increase by 1.4 m during the next 90 years resulting in increased inundation and salt water intrusion up-estuary. Since inundation and salinity are critical factors that drive vegetation structure and composition in coastal wetlands, we asked whether inundation and salinity levels associated with SLR would reduce the survival, growth, and reproductive capacity of a dominant halophyte, Sarcocornia pacifica (pickleweed). We conducted a 4 × 4 factorial greenhouse experiment to examine the effects of a range of inundation periods (25, 50, 75, and 100%) and water salinities (0, 10, 20, 30 psu) on individual S. pacifica adults and seedlings. We found that inundation and salinity treatments affected the height of adults and seedlings combined. When examined separately, adult height was negatively affected by inundation ≥75%, while seedling height was affected by the interaction of both inundation and salinity. Adult belowground biomass was negatively affected by complete inundation. Seedling aboveground biomass decreased 46% at the highest salinity (30 psu) and belowground biomass decreased at salinities ≥20 psu. Adult flower production was not affected by treatments but was reduced by 38% at 30 psu salinity for seedlings. While adult survival was 99%, seedling survival was 56% with greatest mortality at low (25%) inundation, possibly because their roots were more susceptible to desiccation. Vegetation structure of the marsh platform comprised of S. pacifica adults will be susceptible to greater inundation rates associated with SLR. Our results suggest that adults may grow less tall, thus altering the vegetation structure and likely the tidal marsh wildlife that rely on these habitats.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Will inundation and salinity levels associated with projected sea level rise reduce the survival, growth, and reproductive capacity of Sarcocornia pacifica (pickleweed)?
Series title Aquatic Botany
DOI 10.1016/j.aquabot.2012.03.014
Volume 102
Year Published 2012
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) San Francisco Bay-Delta, Western Ecological Research Center
Description 7 p.
First page 8
Last page 14
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