Response and resilience of Spartina alterniflora to sudden dieback

Journal of Coastal Conservation
Department of Biology, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC; CHA Consulting, Inc., 1901 Innovation Drive, Suite 2100, Blacksburg , VA; Department of Environmental Science, University of Virginia, VA.
By: , and 



We measured an array of biophysical and spectral variables to evaluate the response and recovery of Spartina alterniflora to a sudden dieback event in spring and summer 2004 within a low marsh in coastal Virginia, USA. S. alterniflora is a foundation species, whose loss decreases ecosystem services and potentiates ecosystem state change. Long-term records of the potential environmental drivers of dieback such as precipitation and tidal inundation did not evidence any particular anomalies, although Hurricane Isabel in fall 2003 may have been related to dieback. Transects were established across the interface between the dieback area and apparently healthy areas of marsh. Plant condition was classified based on ground cover within transects as dieback, intermediate and healthy. Numerous characteristics of S. alterniflora culms within each condition class were assessed including biomass, morphology and spectral attributes associated with photosynthetic pigments. Plants demonstrated evidence of stress in 2004 and 2005 beyond areas of obvious dieback and resilience at a multi-year scale. Resilience of the plants was evident in recovery of ground cover and biomass largely within 3 y, although a small remnant of dieback persisted for 8 y. Culms surviving within the dieback and areas of intermediate impact had modified morphological traits and spectral response that reflected stress. These morphometric and spectral differences among plant cover condition classes serve as guidelines for monitoring of dieback initiation, effects and subsequent recovery. Although a number of environmental and biotic parameters were assessed relative to causation, the reason for this particular dieback remains largely unknown, however.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Response and resilience of Spartina alterniflora to sudden dieback
Series title Journal of Coastal Conservation
DOI 10.1007/s11852-016-0445-9
Volume 20
Issue 4
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
Description 15 p.
First page 335
Last page 350
Country United States
State Virginia
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
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