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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS - Vol. 474 - Feature article
Spartina alterniflora salt marsh near St. Simons Island, GA, with a dieback area along the edge of the tidal creek. Photo: C. McFarlin

McFarlin CR, Alber M


Foliar DMSO:DMSP ratio and metal content as indicators of stress in Spartina alterniflora


Salt marshes are subject to disturbances that can lead to the loss of plant biomass. Early detection of disturbed areas before the plants show visible signs of stress can be difficult. In a field study of Spartina alterniflora collected from areas affected by four disturbance types (sudden marsh dieback, horse grazing, increased snail densities, wrack deposition), McFarlin and Alber found that the DMSO:DMSP (dimethylsulfoxide to dimethylsulfoniopropionate) ratio and foliar metal content were consistently higher in plants from disturbed areas compared to those from nearby healthy areas. These increases were seen before stress was obvious (e.g. loss of chlorophyll). These two metrics were consistent across multiple sites and disturbance types, suggesting they may be useful as general indicators of salt marsh health.


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