Salt spray differentially affects water status, necrosis, and growth in coastal sandplain heathland species

M. E. Griffiths, C. M. Orians
2003 American Journal of Botany  
Sandplain heathlands are disturbance-dependent plant communities that occur infrequently in coastal areas of the northeastern United States. We hypothesize that salt spray plays a role in maintaining the composition of the heathland community by excluding saltintolerant species close to the ocean. We examined the distributions of Solidago nemoralis, Myrica pensylvanica, Pinus rigida, and Quercus spp. in heathlands and conducted greenhouse studies to determine whether different levels of salt
more » ... ay tolerance explain patterns found in the field. We found that common heathland forb and shrub species grow closer to the ocean than successional woody species. In greenhouse experiments, these species differ in their water status, necrosis, and growth responses to salt spray. The tree species P. rigida and Q. rubra are more susceptible to salt spray than the common heathland species M. pensylvanica. Our results suggest that salt spray may prevent tree species in heathlands from growing close to the ocean and therefore might be an important factor in maintaining the characteristic community composition of these dwarf shrublands in coastal habitats.
doi:10.3732/ajb.90.8.1188 pmid:21659219 fatcat:rxlszygxdjcjlphv6jw6v4662q