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Climate change may spell demise of key salt marsh constituent
Date:7/13/2009

ed and more hospitable to an invasion by Spartina patens, which prefers less water-soaked conditions.

"The forbs basically engineer themselves out of their habitat by making it more favorable for their competitor," said Gedan, the paper's lead author.

In New England, pannes range from Connecticut, where they make up less than 10 percent of a salt marsh's area, to Maine, where they can comprise some 40 percent of the salt marsh ecosystem, according to Gedan.

The Brown experiments "demonstrate that New England salt marsh pannes are extremely sensitive to temperature increases and will be driven to local and regional extinction with the temperature increases expected to occur in New England over the next century," Bertness said.

The scientists are unsure how other variables associated with climate change, such as sea-level rise, may affect pannes. Gedan said higher sea levels would help pannes, because forbs fare well in areas inundated by water. On the other hand, she added, the higher concentrations of carbon dioxide also expected to occur would accelerate forbs' use of water, which may open them up to competition from other plant species.

"How all these things interact, we don't really know," Gedan said. "But we know that with [higher] temperatures, these changes happen rapidly."


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Contact: Richard Lewis
Richard_Lewis@Brown.edu
401-863-3766
Brown University
Source:Eurekalert  

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