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MEPS
Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 513:97-109 (2014)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10920

Seed arrival and persistence at the tidal mudflat: identifying key processes for pioneer seedling establishment in salt marshes

Zhenchang Zhu1,*, Tjeerd J. Bouma1, Tom Ysebaert1, Liquan Zhang2, Peter M. J. Herman1

1Spatial Ecology Department, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Yerseke 4400AC, The Netherlands
2State Key Laboratory of Estuarine and Coastal Research, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, PR China
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Salt marshes are highly valuable ecosystems that provide numerous important ecosystem services. Given the global marsh decline, there is a pressing need to understand the natural bottlenecks and thresholds to their establishment and long-term ecological maintenance. Seed presence in the right place and time is a prerequisite for pioneer establishment. We performed field surveys and manipulative seed-bank experiments on 2 mudflats with different levels of exposure in the Westerschelde, The Netherlands, to identify patterns of seed arrival and persistence and their role in determining seed bank abundance. Seed arrival decreased with distance from the seed-source area, i.e. the salt marsh, resulting in seeds being deposited on the mudflat close to the marsh edge. Once arrived, most of the surface seeds were washed away during subsequent tides, with retention of <20%. However, seed burial enhanced seed retention nonlinearly with increasing burial depth. Predation was not a major cause of seed loss. These results point to the importance of hydrodynamic and morphodynamic processes to both lateral seed dispersal and vertical seed burial on tidal flats and, therefore, suggest that saltmarsh establishment and expansion are closely linked to the physical dynamics of the entire estuarine system.


KEY WORDS: Salt marsh · Mudflat · Seed arrival · Seed persistence · Seed bank · Spartina


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Cite this article as: Zhu Z, Bouma TJ, Ysebaert T, Zhang L, Herman PMJ (2014) Seed arrival and persistence at the tidal mudflat: identifying key processes for pioneer seedling establishment in salt marshes. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 513:97-109. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10920

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