Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:1996
Authors:Mulder, C. P. H., Ruess, R. W., Sedinger J. S.
Journal:Journal of Ecology
Date Published:267-278
Keywords:biomass allocation, goose herbivory, subarctic salt marsh

1 Arrowgrass (Triglochin palustris) is a preferred forage species of geese in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta (south-western Alaska) where it is found primarily on slough levees in coastal areas. Geese may affect nutrient availability, interspecific light competition, and salinity. These variables were manipulated in order to identify interactive effects of interspecific competition and abiotic factors on arrowgrass size, biomass allocation and distribution, which are likely to be significant in relation to the effects of herbivory on arrowgrass abundance and distribution.

2 Arrowgrass individuals were transplanted from two slough levee communities to the same two communities and to the adjacent slough margin and wet Carex meadow communities. Geese were excluded and nutrient availability, light competition and salinity levels were manipulated.

3 When light levels were not manipulated, fertilization had a negative effect on plant biomass and allocation to bulbs. Under decreased competition for light, plant biomass of fertilized plants was not significantly different from that of control plants. Fertilization appears to have a negative effect on arrowgrass as a result of increased competition for light.

4 Plants in the slough margin habitat were smallest, had the lowest allocation to leaves and stolons, and the lowest N concentrations and total N mass. Results from the fertilization treatment suggest plants in this community are limited primarily by physical factors.

5 Plants in the Carex wet meadow had higher allocation to leaves than in other communities under unfertilized conditions, but decreased allocation to leaves under fertilization. Plants in this community appear light- and nutrient-limited under unfertilized conditions, and primarily light-limited under fertilization.

6 Our results suggest that the presence of geese may control arrowgrass distribution because (a) faeces deposition has a negative effect on arrowgrass, (b) this negative effect is ameliorated by consumption of neighbours, and (c) the combination of high light competition and highly selective foraging for arrowgrass limit expansion of arrowgrass into the Carex meadow community. These explanations can now be tested.

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith