The stress gradient hypothesis (SGH) states that plant-plant interactions shift from competition to facilitation in increasing stress conditions. In salt marshes, edaphic properties can weaken the application of the SGH by amplifying the intensity of flooding and controlling plant zonation. We identified facilitative and competitive interactions along flooding gradients and tested the role of edaphic properties in exacerbating stress and shaping plant-plant interactions. Morphological traits of two target halophytes (Limonium narbonense and Sarcocornia fruticosa), flooding intensity, soil texture and soil organic C were recorded. The relative plant fitness index was assessed for the two species based on the relative growth in plurispecific rather than monospecific plant communities. Plant fitness increased with increasing stress supporting the SGH. L. narbonense showed larger fitness in plurispecific stands whereas S. fruticosa performed better in conspecific stands. Significant intra- or interspecific interactions were observed along the stress gradient defined by the combination of flooding and clay content in soil. When considering the limited soil organic C as stressor, soil properties were more important than flooding in defining plant-plant interactions. We highlight the need for future improvements of the SGH approach by including edaphic stressors in the model and their possible interactions with the main abiotic drivers of zonation.

Flooding and Soil Properties Control Plant Intra- and Interspecific Interactions in Salt Marshes

Elisa Pellegrini
;
Guido Incerti;Alessandro Foscari;Valentino Casolo;Marco Contin;Francesco Boscutti
2022

Abstract

The stress gradient hypothesis (SGH) states that plant-plant interactions shift from competition to facilitation in increasing stress conditions. In salt marshes, edaphic properties can weaken the application of the SGH by amplifying the intensity of flooding and controlling plant zonation. We identified facilitative and competitive interactions along flooding gradients and tested the role of edaphic properties in exacerbating stress and shaping plant-plant interactions. Morphological traits of two target halophytes (Limonium narbonense and Sarcocornia fruticosa), flooding intensity, soil texture and soil organic C were recorded. The relative plant fitness index was assessed for the two species based on the relative growth in plurispecific rather than monospecific plant communities. Plant fitness increased with increasing stress supporting the SGH. L. narbonense showed larger fitness in plurispecific stands whereas S. fruticosa performed better in conspecific stands. Significant intra- or interspecific interactions were observed along the stress gradient defined by the combination of flooding and clay content in soil. When considering the limited soil organic C as stressor, soil properties were more important than flooding in defining plant-plant interactions. We highlight the need for future improvements of the SGH approach by including edaphic stressors in the model and their possible interactions with the main abiotic drivers of zonation.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11390/1233140
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