Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Ecohydrology of wetland plant communities along an estuarine to tidal river gradient.

Abstract

Abiotic filters that interact with wetland plant communities along tidal-fluvial gradients are highly dynamic, and understanding their quantitative thresholds and relationships to interspecific competition is important during an era of sea-level rise and watershed hydrologic change. Yet, landscape-scale studies of major coastal rivers from the river mouth to the head of tide, such as this study, remain rare. Here, we develop a new predictive framework for estuarine-tidal river research and management using a river-specific low-water datum and the wetland inundation indicator SEVg, the growing-season sum exceedance value of hourly surface-water depth. The distribution and variability of the wetland species pool (n = 203) on the 234 river kilometer (rkm) lower Columbia River and estuary floodplain are described for the first time. 4,940 quadrats at 50 marshes were surveyed (2005-2016). Throughout the estuarine-tidal river system, SEVg was well suited to describe the wetland inundation regime and its variability based on the combination of longitudinal river position and elevation. SEVg increased significantly landward. Two primary wetland inundation regimes were identified: the seaward-tidal, usually greatest during the winter months, and landward-fluvial, greatest during the growing season. Nearest the ocean, salinity is the abiotic factor limiting species richness and non-native species. Farther upriver, the daily, seasonal, and interannual variability of the wetting and drying cycle encourage disturbance-tolerant species and non-natives and limit the number of hydrophytes and total vegetative cover. Hence, the average between-year similarity of site-scale areal cover significantly decreased landward. Hierarchical cluster analysis indicated five vegetative groups and five ecohydrologic zones between rkm 0 and 234 were discriminated with 76 significant species-zone associations. All zones had unique indicator species. Species with high indicator values were Carex lyngbyei throughout the estuarine zones, and Eleocharis palustris, Sagittaria latifolia, and the invasive non-native Phalaris arundinacea in the upper estuarine and lower, middle, and upper tidal river zones (IV > 0.90). Competition from C. lyngbyei nearest the ocean and P. arundinacea in the tidal river was associated with reduced species richness when total cover was >65%. This framework of filters informs the design and prediction of future wetland plant communities on coastal river floodplains.