Salt marshes suffered large‐scale degradation in recent decades. Extreme events such as hot and dry spells contributed significantly to this, and are predicted to increase not only in intensity, but also in frequency under future climate scenarios. Such repetitive extreme events may generate cumulative effects on ecosystem resilience. It is therefore important to elucidate how marsh vegetation responds to repetitive stress, and whether changes in key species interactions can modulate vegetation resilience. In this study, we investigated how moderate but repetitive desiccation events, caused by the combined effects of drought and high temperatures, affect cordgrass ( We found that each subsequent desiccation event deteriorated sediment porewater conditions, resulting in high salinity (53 ppt), low pH‐levels (3.7) and increased porewater Al and Fe concentrations (≈800 μmol/L and ≈1,500 μmol/L) upon rewetting. No effects on porewater chemistry were found as a result of snail grazing, while ribbed mussels strongly mitigated desiccation effects almost to control levels and increased cordgrass biomass by approximately 128%. Importantly, although cordgrass generally appeared healthy above‐ground at the end of the experiment, we found clear negative responses of the repetitive desiccation treatment on cordgrass below‐ground biomass, on proline (osmolyte) levels in shoots and on the number of tillers (−40%), regardless of mussel and/or snail presence.
Salt marshes suffered large‐scale degradation in recent decades. Extreme events such as hot and dry spells contributed significantly to this, and are predicted to increase not only in intensity, but also in frequency under future climate scenarios. Such repetitive extreme events may generate cumulative effects on ecosystem resilience. It is therefore important to elucidate how marsh vegetation responds to repetitive stress, and whether changes in key species interactions can modulate vegetation resilience.
In this study, we investigated how moderate but repetitive desiccation events, caused by the combined effects of drought and high temperatures, affect cordgrass (
We found that each subsequent desiccation event deteriorated sediment porewater conditions, resulting in high salinity (53 ppt), low pH‐levels (3.7) and increased porewater Al and Fe concentrations (≈800 μmol/L and ≈1,500 μmol/L) upon rewetting. No effects on porewater chemistry were found as a result of snail grazing, while ribbed mussels strongly mitigated desiccation effects almost to control levels and increased cordgrass biomass by approximately 128%. Importantly, although cordgrass generally appeared healthy above‐ground at the end of the experiment, we found clear negative responses of the repetitive desiccation treatment on cordgrass below‐ground biomass, on proline (osmolyte) levels in shoots and on the number of tillers (−40%), regardless of mussel and/or snail presence.
- Award ID(s):
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Publisher / Repository:
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- Journal of Ecology
- Page Range / eLocation ID:
- p. 2415-2426
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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