Effects of managed impoundments and herbivory on wetland plant production and stand structure

Wetlands
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Abstract

Managed impoundments, a form of structural marsh management, have been used to enhance plant production in the rapidly-eroding marshes of coastal Louisiana, USA, yet few studies have quantified their effects by measuring plant production before and after impoundment construction. We tested the effects of structural marsh management on the annual aboveground production and plant stand structure (stem density and stem height) of Spartina patens and Schoenoplectus americanus by collecting measurements before and after the construction of two shallow impoundments. We manipulated the water level in each impoundment by adjusting a single flap-gated culvert fitted with a variable crest weir. Because nutria herbivory also seemed to have a strong influence on plant production in these marshes, we tested the effects of nutria herbivory on the annual aboveground production and plant stand structure of both plant species by collecting data from fenced (ungrazed) and unfenced (grazed) plots located in both managed and unmanaged areas. There were no significant differences in Spartina annual production, stem density, and stem height between managed and unmanaged areas, and Schoenoplectus annual production, stem density, and stem height were greater in unmanaged marsh, indicating that the management method used in this study was not effective in promoting plant production in the rapidly-eroding, brackish, deltaic marshes of coastal Louisiana. Nutria herbivory dramatically reduced the annual aboveground production, stem density, and stem, height of Schoenoplectus, a preferred forage species, and thus altered the structure of the mixed species stand. Herbivory had no significant effect on the annual aboveground production and stem density of Spartina. In the absence of herbivory, the stem height of Spartina increased significantly and coincided with significant increases in the stem density and height of Schoenoplectus. The changes in plant stand structure caused by nutria herbivory may facilitate marsh erosion and ultimately contribute to wetland loss.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Effects of managed impoundments and herbivory on wetland plant production and stand structure
Series title Wetlands
DOI 10.1672/0277-5212(2005)025[0038:EOMIAH]2.0.CO;2
Volume 25
Issue 1
Year Published 2005
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) National Wetlands Research Center, Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
Description 13 p.
First page 38
Last page 50
Country United States
State Louisiana
Other Geospatial Barataria Basin