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Variation in Tussock Architecture of the Invasive Cordgrass Spartina Densiflora along the Pacific Coast of North America
Biological Invasions
  • Jesus M. Castillo, Universidad de Sevilla
  • Brenda J. Grewall, USDA-ARS Exotic and Invasive Weeds Research Unit, University of California, Davis
  • Andrea Pickart, Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge
  • Enrique Figueroa, Universidad de Sevilla
  • Mark D. Sytsma, Portland State University
Document Type
Publication Date
  • Introduced organisms,
  • Anoxia,
  • Phenotypic plasticity,
  • Salt marshes -- Effect of climatic changes on,
  • Spartina -- Pacific Coast (North America)

Some introduced species spread rapidly beyond their native range and into novel habitats mediated by a high degree of phenotypic plasticity and/or rapid evolutionary responses. In this context, clonality has been described as a significant factor contributing to invasiveness. We studied the abiotic environment and the responses of different tussock architecture traits of the invasive cordgrass Spartina densiflora Brongn. (Poaceae). A common garden experiment and field studies of S. densiflora in salt marshes across a wide latitudinal gradient from California (USA) to British Columbia (Canada) provided a model system for an integrated study of the potential mechanisms underlying the response of invasive S. densiflora populations to changes in environmental conditions. Our results showed that S. densiflora is able to adjust to widely variable climate (specifically, air temperature and the duration of the growing season) and sediment conditions (specifically, texture and hypoxia) through phenotypical plastic key functional tussock traits (e.g. shoot density, height, above- and below-ground biomass allocation patterns). Root biomass increased in coarser sediments in contrast to rhizomes, which were more abundant in finer sediments. Above-ground biomass and leaf area index increased mainly with air temperature during summer, and more robust (taller and wider) shoots were associated with more oxygenated sediments. In view of our results, S. densifloraappears to be a halophyte with a high degree of phenotypic plasticity that would enable it to respond successfully to changes in the abiotic conditions of salt marshes driven by global climate change, such as increasing salinity and temperatures.


Published 2016 by Springer.

To the best of our knowledge, this work was authored as part of the Contributor's official duties as an Employee of the United States Government and is therefore a work of the United States Government. In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 105, no copyright protection is available for such works under U.S. Law.

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Citation Information
Castillo, J. M., Grewell, B. J., Pickart, A. J., Figueroa, E., & Sytsma, M. (2016). Variation in tussock architecture of the invasive cordgrass Spartina densiflora along the Pacific Coast of North America. Biological Invasions, 18(8), 2159–2174