The response of Puccinellia maritima to burial: A key to understanding its role in salt-marsh dynamics?

Authors

  • E. Langlois,

    1. Université Rennes I-U.M.R. ‘EcoBio’ 6553 C.N.R.S., Campus de Beaulieu, F-35042 Rennes Cedex, France
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  • A. Bonis,

    Corresponding author
    1. Université Rennes I-U.M.R. ‘EcoBio’ 6553 C.N.R.S., Campus de Beaulieu, F-35042 Rennes Cedex, France
      *Corresponding author; Fax +33299281626; E-mail anne.bonis@univ-rennes1.fr
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  • J.B. Bouzillé

    1. Université Rennes I-U.M.R. ‘EcoBio’ 6553 C.N.R.S., Campus de Beaulieu, F-35042 Rennes Cedex, France
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*Corresponding author; Fax +33299281626; E-mail anne.bonis@univ-rennes1.fr

Abstract

Abstract. The plant and sediment dynamics in salt marshes are strongly interrelated, but few data are available to document their interaction. Puccinellia maritima is a perennial grass that occurs widely in salt marshes and this study examines its role in the stabilization or trapping of sediment in the pioneer zone and its response to burial, a characteristic phenomenon in accreting salt marshes. Puccinellia not only appears to limit erosion but also to significantly enhance accretion. The functional role of this species is largely dependent on the local disturbance regime. The response of Puccinellia to burial was studied in a series of burial treatments. Growth performance of Puccinellia was stimulated by burial of 4 mm sediment and reduced by burial of 8 mm/month. Burial under 12 mm of sediment led to high mortality of up to 97%. Response was determined by the instantaneous thickness of sediment rather than by the total quantity. Morphological response to burial consisted mainly of stem elongation. Plants collected from accretion zones in the field also produced tillers with adventitious roots at successive soil layers. The range of burial tolerances found for Puccinellia fits well with its occurrence in locations with up to 8 mm sediment accretion per tidal cycle, a common situation in the salt marsh studied.

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