|Biomechanical properties of marsh vegetation in space and time: effects of salinity, inundation and seasonality|Zhu, Z.; Yang, Z.; Bouma, T.J. (2020). Biomechanical properties of marsh vegetation in space and time: effects of salinity, inundation and seasonality. Ann. Bot. 125(2): 277–290. https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcz063
In: Annals of Botany. Academic Press: London. ISSN 0305-7364; e-ISSN 1095-8290, meer
Biomechanical properties; wave attenuation; coastal defence; salinity; inundation; season; stem stiffness; stem breakability
AbstractBackground and AimsOver the last decade, the importance of plant biomechanical properties in shaping wave dissipation efficiency of marsh vegetation has gained growing attention. Here we provide the first analyses of how biomechanical stem properties vary with seasons and along environmental gradients in coastal and estuarine marshes, which is essential to enable accurate assessments of flood defence value of marsh vegetation.MethodsWe quantified both spatial and seasonal variation in stem flexibility and breakability for a variety of common marsh vegetation (Spartina anglica, Scirpus maritimus, Phragmites australis, Elymus athericus, Suaeda maritima, Aster tripolium, Saliconia procumbens) distributed along both salinity and inundation gradients.Key ResultsIncreasing salinity tends to induce a shift from species with tall shoots, high flexural stiffness (stem resistance to bending; N mm2) towards species with shorter and more flexible stems. The same trend was found with increasing inundation stress (i.e. decreasing elevation) from the higher part of the low marsh towards the pioneer zone. Stem breakability (the force required to break or fold a stem, N) followed the same pattern of stem stiffness due to the positive relationship between flexural strength (material resistance to flexure, N mm−2) and Young’s bending modulus (material resistance to bending; N mm−2). Shifts in stem stiffness and breakability at the community level were found to relate positively to the variation in canopy height between species, highlighting the concurrence of changes in morphological and biomechanical traits under environmental changes. Compared to the differences between species, within-species variability between sampling locations and between seasons is generally minor.ConclusionsOur findings imply that environmental changes may significantly modify wave attenuation capacity of coastal vegetation by inducing species shifts. This emphasizes the need to understand the response of community composition to climate change and human disturbances, when using nature-based flood protection by coastal vegetation as an adaptive response to global change.