Effects of tidal flooding on juvenile willows

  • Tidal freshwater forested wetlands
  • Tidal flooding tolerance
  • Willows
  • Sea level rise
  • Tidal wetlands are affected by sea level rise. In the tidal freshwater stretches of estuaries in the temperate zone, willows (Salix spp.) form tidal freshwater forests above the mean high water level. Willows tolerance to prolonged periodic flooding in riverine systems is well documented, whereas effects of tidal flooding on willows are largely unknown. Flooding stress may play a major role in regeneration failure of willows in tidal forest stands along estuarine shores, and juvenile willows might be specifically affected by partial or total submergence. To assess the tolerance of juvenile willows to tidal flooding, we conducted a mesocosm experiment with cuttings from Salix alba and Salix viminalis, which are both characteristic species for tidal freshwater forests in Europe. Cuttings originating from either fresh or brackish tidal forest stands were grown under four tidal treatments with up to a tidal flooding of 60 cm. A general tolerance to a tidal flooding of 60 cm was observed in chlorophyll fluorescence, growth rates, and biomass production in both willow species. Overall, S. alba showed higher leaf and shoot growth, whereas S. viminalis produced more biomass. S. alba with brackish origin performed worst with increasing tidal flooding, suggesting a possible pre-weakening due to stressful site conditions in tidal wetlands at the estuarine brackish stretch. This study demonstrates that juvenile willows of S. alba and S. viminalis tolerate tidal flooding of up to 60 cm. It is concluded that tidal inundation acts as a stress by causing submergence and soil anaerobiosis, but may also act as a subsidy by reestablishing aerobic conditions and thus maintaining willows performance. Therefore, we suggest investigations on Salix tidal flooding tolerance and possible effects of willows on tidal wetland accretion under estuarine field conditions.
  • info:eu-repo/semantics/closedAccess
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