Monday, July 6, 2009

Spartina likes it hot

Some like it hot. Spartina patens, the dominant grass in New England salt marsh, does, but many salt marsh forb species, pictured above, do not. In field experiments warming areas of salt marsh on the border of Spartina grass and forb panne zones, I found that the species in the forb panne, a unique and diverse group of stress tolerant forbs, were outcompeted by Spartina under warmer conditions. Plant diversity rapidly declined in experimentally warmed plots as Spartina took over.

From these results, my co-author, Mark Bertness, and I predict declines in salt marsh plant diversity and reductions in forb panne area in the near future due to global warming. In fact, in the warm years when we did our experiment (2004-2006), forb panne area was lost even in control plots, and forb pannes were lost before our very eyes. Read all about it in this month's Ecology Letters.

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