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Environmentally determined spatial patterns of annual plants in early salt-marsh succession versus stochastic distribution in old salt-marsh conditions
Erfanzadeh, R.; Pétillon, J.; Maelfait, J.-P.; Hoffmann, M. (2009). Environmentally determined spatial patterns of annual plants in early salt-marsh succession versus stochastic distribution in old salt-marsh conditions, in: Erfanzadeh, R. (2009). Spatio-temporal aspects of early vegetation succession in a recently restored salt-marsh ecosystem: a case study of the IJzer estuary (Belgium). pp. 95-109
In: Erfanzadeh, R. (2009). Spatio-temporal aspects of early vegetation succession in a recently restored salt-marsh ecosystem: a case study of the IJzer estuary (Belgium). PhD Thesis. Ghent University. Faculty of Sciences. Department of Biology. Terrestrial Ecology Unit: Gent. xii, 206 incl. Appendices pp., more

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Keywords
    Abiotic factors; Abundance; Composition; Environmental factors; Salt marshes; Soil structure; Soil types; Species diversity; Succession (ecological); Vegetation; Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Erfanzadeh, R.
  • Pétillon, J.
  • Maelfait, J.-P., more
  • Hoffmann, M., more

Abstract
    It is generally accepted that in terrestrial ecosystems the occurrence and abundance of plant species in late succession stages can be well predicted from prevailing soil conditions whereas in early succession their presence is much more influenced by chance events (e.g. propagule availability). In other words late successional vegetation stages would be deterministically structured, while early succession stages would be of a more stochastic nature.

    To test this hypothesis, we compared the effect of abiotic environmental factors on vegetation composition and probability of occurrence of single species in two adjacent saltmarshes, differing in age (successional stage). A new salt-marsh of about 14ha was created in 2002 by removing a several meters thick layer of sand and slurry which was deposited on the major part of the salt-marsh along the IJzer estuary in the 1960s. From 2002 onwards, primary colonization started on that sterile substrate by hydrochoric seed dispersal, induced by tidal water currents from an adjacent 4ha old salt-marsh and the latter remained untouched as saltmarsh for more than two hundred years. Between mid August and the end of September 2005, three years after the start of the colonization in the new salt-marsh, vegetation and three abiotic environmental factors (soil texture, salinity and elevation) were described in a set of 155 plots (2m × 2m), distributed over the new and the old salt-marsh.

    In contrast to the general rule for terrestrial ecosystems, the vegetation composition of the early succession stage of the new salt-marsh appears to be at least as much determined by the combined effect of the measured abiotic factors as that of the old salt-marsh. As revealed by logistic regression the presence/absence of perennial species as well as annual species of the young salt-marsh can be well predicted by the measured abiotic environment. For the old salt-marsh, this also holds for the perennials, but not for the annuals. The stochastic appearance of gaps in the perennial vegetation cover appears to be important for the establishment of annuals in the older salt-marsh.

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