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Intraspecific facilitation explains the persistence of Phragmites australis in modified coastal wetlands
Reijers, V.C.; van den Akker, M.; Cruijsen, P.M.J.M.; Lamers, L.P.M.; van der Heide, T. (2019). Intraspecific facilitation explains the persistence of Phragmites australis in modified coastal wetlands . Ecosphere 10(8): e02842.

Additional data:
In: Ecosphere. Wiley-Blackwell. ISSN 2150-8925, more
Peer reviewed article  

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    Phragmites australis (Cav.) Trin. ex Steud. [WoRMS]
Author keywords
    coastal wetlands; habitat modification; osmoregulation; Phragmites australis; restoration; self-reinforcing feedbacks; sulfide toxicity

Authors  Top 
  • Reijers, V.C.
  • van den Akker, M.
  • Cruijsen, P.M.J.M.
  • Lamers, L.P.M.
  • van der Heide, T., more

    Coastal exploitation and human‐mediated modifications have markedly altered the community composition and functioning of coastal wetlands worldwide. Although recent work has shown that harnessing positive density‐dependent feedbacks can greatly enhance the recovery of habitat‐modifying species in degraded wetlands, the role of these intraspecific feedbacks in explaining the persistence of altered, unfavorable plant communities remains largely unexplored. Here, we experimentally tested whether intraspecific facilitation may explain the persistence of common reed (Phragmites australis) in human‐modified coastal wetlands. We performed a full‐factorial mesocosm experiment crossing low‐density pioneer versus high‐density established development stages with saline (20 psu) versus freshwater conditions. Results showed a clear shift in plant growth response from intraspecific competition under freshwater conditions to self‐facilitation in saline treatments. We identified two positive feedback mechanisms enabling the established treatment to overcome salinity stress: (1) Enhanced root oxygenation of the sediment at higher plant density decreased accumulation and intrusion of phytotoxic sulfide, and (2) density‐dependent rainwater infiltration into the soil lowered salinity in the dense root mat, preventing salt stress. Our study demonstrates that intraspecific facilitation can be an important factor in explaining the persistence of Phragmites australis in coastal wetlands. We emphasize the importance of integrating positive interactions in coastal restoration but argue that they should either be harnessed when restoring vegetation or broken when eradication of nontarget species is the management objective.

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