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Interactions among salt marsh plants vary geographically but not latitudinally along the California coast.

  • Author(s): Noto, Akana E;
  • Shurin, Jonathan B
  • et al.

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The strength of species interactions often varies geographically and locally with environmental conditions. Competitive interactions are predicted to be stronger in benign environments while facilitation is expected to be stronger in harsh ones. We tested these ideas with an aboveground neighbor removal experiment at six salt marshes along the California coast. We determined the effect of removals of either the dominant species, Salicornia pacifica, or the subordinate species on plant cover, aboveground biomass and community composition, as well as soil salinity and moisture. We found that S. pacifica consistently competed with the subordinate species and that the strength of competition varied among sites. In contrast with other studies showing that dominant species facilitate subordinates by moderating physical stress, here the subordinate species facilitated S. pacifica shortly after removal treatments were imposed, but the effect disappeared over time. Contrary to expectations based on patterns observed in east coast salt marshes, we did not see patterns in species interactions in relation to latitude, climate, or soil edaphic characteristics. Our results suggest that variation in interactions among salt marsh plants may be influenced by local-scale site differences such as nutrients more than broad latitudinal gradients.

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