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Differential responses to salinity help explain the replacement of native Juncus kraussii by Typha orientalis in Western Australian salt marshes

Zedler, J.B., Paling, E. and McComb, A. (1990) Differential responses to salinity help explain the replacement of native Juncus kraussii by Typha orientalis in Western Australian salt marshes. Austral Ecology, 15 (1). pp. 57-72.

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The influence of salinity on Typha orientalis and Juncus kraussii was documented in experiments on germination of seeds and on growth of seedlings and adult, rhizome-bearing plants. Juncus was more salt-tolerant than Typha at all three life-history stages, but salt tolerance increased with plant age for both species. Although seeds of both species germinated at 0 and 5 ppt, the germination data overestimated salt tolerance for Typha. Only the newly emerged seedlings of Juncus were capable of growth after removal from the 5 ppt NaCl solution to fresh water. Typha seedlings that initiated growth at 0 ppt grew well at 5 ppt but not at 10 ppt, while Juncus seedlings were tolerant of 10 ppt. Although the 20 ppt treatment caused high mortality of Juncus seedlings, the 10 ppt treatment mainly reduced growth. Adult plants of Typha, which were collected from the field, survived the 20 ppt treatment, while adult Juncus survived the 40 ppt treatment. The presence of salt (10–40 ppt) shortened the growing season for adult, rhizome-bearing plants of both Juncus and Typha, with a lower maximum and earlier peak in total leaf length and maximum leaf number. Thus, the greater biomass in fresh water was achieved primarily through a longer growth period, rather than a greatly accelerated growth rate.

Interactions between the two species were explored in mixed-species culture of both seedlings and adult rhizome-bearing plants. Interspecific interactions were present at low salinity, but results differed for seedlings and adult plants. Typha seedlings failed to outgrow Juncus seedlings (at 5 ppt) but adult plants of Typha outgrew Juncus (at 0 ppt). Relative yields (biomass in mixed/pure pots) for Juncus and Typha seedlings were 0.85 and 0.26 at 5 ppt. Relative yields of adult plants were 0.24 for Juncus and 1.20 for Typha at 0 ppt. For both seedlings and adults, the species that ultimately dominated the mixed-species pots produced just as much total biomass as in pure-species pots, even though initial planting density was half as high.

Extrapolating findings to the field situation, it appears that Typha has a narrow regeneration niche. The indication is that Typha could invade Juncus stands only following salinity reduction (allowing seed germination and early seedling growth) and after disturbance disrupts the native vegetation. The combined conditions of prolonged low salinity and open habitat occur where street drains are cut through the salt marsh. The probability of Typha becoming established would be highest in such areas. vegetative expansion would follow with continued freshwater influx, as rhizome-bearing plants gain an interspecific advantage.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing Inc
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