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      Seedling establishment in a dynamic sedimentary environment: a conceptual framework using mangroves

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          1. Vegetated biogeomorphic systems (e.g. mangroves, salt marshes, dunes, riparian vegetation) have been intensively studied for the impact of the biota on sediment transport processes and the resulting self-organization of such landscapes. However, there is a lack of understanding of physical disturbance mechanisms that limit primary colonization in active sedimentary environments.

          2. This study elucidates the effect of sediment disturbance during the seedling stage of pioneer vegetation, using mangroves as a model system. We performed mesocosm experiments that mimicked sediment disturbance as (i) accretion/burial of plants and (ii) erosion/excavation of plants of different magnitudes and temporal distribution in combination with water movement and inundation stress.

          3. Cumulative sediment disturbance reduced seedling survival, with the faster-growing Avicennia alba showing less mortality than the slower-growing Sonneratia alba. The presence of the additional stressors (inundation and water movement) predominantly reduced the survival of S. alba.

          4. Non-lethal accretion treatments increased shoot biomass of the seedlings, whereas non-lethal erosion treatments increased root biomass allocation. This morphological plasticity in combination with the abiotic disturbance history determined how much maximum erosion the seedlings were able to withstand.

          5. Synthesis and applications. Seedling survival in dynamic sedimentary environments is determined by the frequency and magnitude of sediment accretion or erosion events, with non-lethal events causing feedbacks to seedling stability. Managers attempting restoration of mangroves, salt marshes, dunes and riparian vegetation should recognize sediment dynamics as a main bottleneck to primary colonization. The temporal distribution of erosion and accretion events has to be evaluated against the ability of the seedlings to outgrow or adjust to disturbances. Our results suggest that selecting fast-growing pioneer species and measures to enhance seedling growth or temporary reduction in sediment dynamics at the restoration site can aid restoration success for vegetated biogeomorphic ecosystems.

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          Most cited references 50

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          Phenotypic plasticity for plant development, function and life history.

           Sonia Sultan (2000)
          A single genotype can produce different phenotypes in different environments. This fundamental property of organisms is known as phenotypic plasticity. Recently, intensive study has shown that plants are plastic for a remarkable array of ecologically important traits, ranging from diverse aspects of morphology and physiology to anatomy, developmental and reproductive timing, breeding system, and offspring developmental patterns. Comparative, quantitative genetics and molecular approaches are leading to new insights into the adaptive nature of plasticity, its underlying mechanisms and its role in the ecological distribution and evolutionary diversification of plants.
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            A world without mangroves?

             K C Ewel,  N Koedam,  K Anger (2007)
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              Streamflow requirements for cottonwood seedling recruitment—An integrative model


                Author and article information

                Role: Handling Editor
                J Appl Ecol
                J Appl Ecol
                The Journal of Applied Ecology
                Blackwell Publishing Ltd
                June 2013
                08 March 2013
                : 50
                : 3
                : 740-747
                [1 ]Marine and Coastal Systems, Deltares 2629 HD, Delft, The Netherlands
                [2 ]Singapore-Delft Water Alliance, National University of Singapore Singapore, 117576, Singapore
                [3 ]Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore Singapore, 117543, Singapore
                [4 ]Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ-Yerseke) 4400 AC, Yerseke, The Netherlands
                Author notes
                © 2013 British Ecological Society

                Re-use of this article is permitted in accordance with the Creative Commons Deed, Attribution 2.5, which does not permit commercial exploitation.



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