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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 59(4)

Does salinity reduce the tolerance of two contrasting wetland plants, the submerged monocot Vallisneria australis and the woody shrub Melaleuca ericifolia, to wetting and drying?

Jacqueline Salter A C, Kay Morris A, Paul I. Boon B

A School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Clayton, Vic. 3800, Australia.
B Institute for Sustainability and Innovation, Victoria University, St Albans, Vic. 3021, Australia.
C Corresponding author. Email: jacqueline.salter@sci.monash.edu.au
 
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Abstract

Adverse hydrological regimes and secondary salinisation are ubiquitous stressors to wetland plants in south-eastern Australia. To test whether salinity stress interacts with hydrological stress to affect the growth and survival of aquatic plants, we examined the responses of Melaleuca ericifolia Smith, a shrub favouring drained sites, and the obligately submerged monocot Vallisneria australis (S.W.L. Jacobs & D.H. Les) to different hydrological regimes under freshwater and saline conditions. Under freshwater conditions both species recovered from water regimes that were considered prima facie unsuitable to their growth form: M. ericifolia from 5 and 10 weeks of submersion, and V. australis from a simulated water-level drawdown and exposure to air. Salinity, however, markedly compromised the survival of M. ericifolia after it was re-exposed following submersion. Salinity not only reduced the recovery of V. australis after its release from a period of drying that desiccated aboveground organs, but prohibited recovery when the soil dried out. We conclude that M. ericifolia and V. australis can tolerate short periods of submergence and drying, respectively, under freshwater conditions, but that salinity compromises the ability of both taxa to recover from water regimes that, based on the plant’s growth form, would be considered unsuitable for long-term survival and growth.

Keywords: drawdown and flooding patterns, wetland conservation and management.


   
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