Response ofPhragmitesto environmental parameters associated with treatments

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Abstract

This multi-year study evaluated the response of invasive Phragmites australis to changes in pore water geochemistry associated with tidal enhancement, alone or in combination with other prescribed management regimes used by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. A pilot study was conducted prior to the treatment experiment that showed a negative correlation between the growth of Phragmites and cation concentrations in a transitional vegetation zone. In the targeted 535-acre brackish-water impoundment (East Pool) where Phragmites dominated, the soil water chemistry was changed by introducing tidal salt water through water control structures in June of 1999. Soil profiles, pH, salinity and cation concentration data in addition to Phragmites height and density data were collected both before and after the treatments were imposed, where possible. It was generally observed that a soil water salinity above ˜28 would be needed to maintain the reduction of Phragmites and to support its replacement by salt marsh species. In the tidal water manipulated experimental macroplots, the soil water salinity changed from 7.1 to 32 on average between 1999 and 2001. The reduction of the average height of Phragmites ranged from 25% to 84% for different treatment combinations, while untreated sites exhibited a slight increases in height. The reduction in average live density ranged from 51% to 87% for different treatment combinations. The greatest reduction of Phragmites density and height resulted when tidal enhancement was followed by a prescribed burn in the winter. Also, significant negative correlations were observed between Phragmites height and the main cations associated with tidal salt water including Mg2+, Na+ and K+ and to a lesser extent Ca2+. pH did not change drastically with the introduction of tidal water over the period of 1999-2001 and did not appear to play a significant role in changing the growth of Phragmites. A reduction of soil adhesiveness associated with the decay of Phragmites roots was observed after a two month period in 2001 when plants were submerged in standing water. This points to the need to maintain tidal exchange to promote a gradual transition from a Phragmites-dominated system to a Spartina-dominated system. Towards the end of the growing season in 2001, Spartina patens and Distichlis spicata had begun to ramify into the center of the island patches.

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