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Variation in Growth Rates under Saline Conditions of Pascopyrum smithii (Western Wheatgrass) and Distichlis spicata (Inland Saltgrass) from Different Source Populations in Kansas and Nebraska: Implications for the Restoration of Salt-Affected Plant Communities


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Soil salinization resulting from agricultural and oil- and gas-production activities can impact habitats of native flora and fauna and reduce production on agricultural lands. Restoration of saline areas with salt-tolerant vegetation may alleviate impacts. However, differences in how the growth rate under saline conditions varies between species and source populations must first be evaluated before recommending species for restoration. Plant material of Western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii) and Inland saltgrass (Distichlis spicata) collected from Cheyenne Bottoms Preserve, Kansas and Little Salt Fork Marsh, Nebraska was propagated to evaluate variation in growth rates between these species under saline conditions and determine if differences exist between populations within these species. Ten transplants of each species from each location were grown in sand culture in a greenhouse for 51 days and watered with one of five different saltwater solutions (0.86 dS/m, 9.85 dS/m, 17.85 dS/m, 32.5 dS/m, and 57.7 dS/m). Results indicate that P. smithii grew faster than D. spicata at all comparable salinity levels. Only D. spicata exhibited significant differences in growth rate under saline conditions between populations. Results suggest that P. smithii is equivalent to D. spicata in salt tolerance and should be regarded as an appropriate halophyte for restoration of salt-affected plant environments. Results for D. spicata suggest that differences between source populations should be considered when evaluating plant material for plant community restoration.