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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  09 Jun 2020

09 Jun 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Plant genotype determines biomass response to flooding frequency in tidal wetlands

Svenja Reents1, Peter Mueller2, Hao Tang1, Kai Jensen1, and Stefanie Nolte3,4 Svenja Reents et al.
  • 1Applied Plant Ecology, Institute of Plant Science and Microbiology, Universität Hamburg, Hamburg, 22609, Germany
  • 2Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Edgewater, Maryland, 21087, USA
  • 3School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK
  • 4Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, Lowestoft, NR33 0HT, UK

Abstract. The persistence of tidal wetland ecosystems like salt marshes is threatened by human interventions and climate change. Particularly the threat of accelerated sea level rise (SLR) has recently gained increasing attention by the scientific community. However, studies investigating the effect of SLR on plants and vertical marsh accretion are usually restricted to the species or community level and do not consider phenotypic plasticity or genetic diversity. To investigate the response of genotypes within the same salt-marsh species to SLR, we used two known genotypes of Elymus athericus (Link) Kerguélen (low-marsh and high-marsh genotypes). In a factorial marsh organ experiment we exposed both genotypes to different flooding frequencies and quantified plant growth parameters. With increasing flooding frequency, the low-marsh genotype showed a higher aboveground biomass production compared to the high-marsh genotype. Additionally, the low-marsh genotype generally formed longer rhizomes, shoots and leaves, regardless of flooding frequency. Belowground biomass of both genotypes decreased with flooding frequency. We conclude that the low-marsh genotype is better adapted to higher flooding frequencies through its ability to allocate resources from below- to aboveground biomass. Given the strong control of plant biomass production on salt-marsh accretion, we argue that these findings yield important implications for our understanding of ecosystem resilience to SLR as well as plant-species distribution in salt marshes.

Svenja Reents et al.

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Svenja Reents et al.

Svenja Reents et al.


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Short summary
By conducting a flooding experiment with two genotypes of the salt-marsh grass Elymus athericus, we show considerable differences in biomass response to flooding within the same species. As biomass production plays a major role in sedimentation processes and thereby salt-marsh accretion, we emphasise the importance to take intraspecific differences into account when evaluating ecosystem resilience to accelerated sea level rise.
By conducting a flooding experiment with two genotypes of the salt-marsh grass Elymus athericus,...