TitleNegative and neutral marsh plant interactions dominate in early life stages and across physical gradients in an Oregon estuary
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsKeammerer, HB, Hacker, SD
JournalPlant Ecology
Type of ArticleJournal Article

Conceptual models and some empirical studies in plant systems show that species interactions can shift from competitive under low stress and high productivity conditions to positive under high stress and low productivity conditions. In this study, we explore the relative strength and direction of marsh plant interactions at early life stages across a stress and productivity gradient in South Slough, Coos Bay, Oregon, USA. Germination and survival of five plant species (Atriplex patula L., Distichlis spicata (L.), Plantago maritima (Lam.) A. Gray, Sarcocornia pacifica (Standl.) A. J. Scott, Triglochin maritimum L.) were examined in the presence and absence of neighboring vegetation at three intertidal levels in each of three marsh sites along an estuarine gradient. We found that many of the interactions measured across these gradients were negative or neutral. The direction of the interactions depended on life stage, with neighboring plants having mostly negative and neutral effects on seed germination, and mostly neutral and rarely positive effects on seedling survival especially at lower intertidal locations. The exception was in the high intertidal at all sites, where competition was common. We found that the intensity of the interactions varied depending on marsh site, intertidal elevation, and plant species identity and that life stage and regional climate may be responsible for the general lack of positive interactions. We suggest that measuring species interactions across complex gradients of physical stress at different life stages can help refine our conceptual models and lead to better predictions of the factors controlling community structure.

URL<Go to ISI>://WOS:000314781600012