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      Below-ground biomass of plants, with a key contribution of buried shoots, increases foredune resistance to wave swash

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      Annals of Botany

      Oxford University Press (OUP)

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          Abstract

          Background and aims

          Sand dunes reduce the impact of storms on shorelines and human infrastructure. The ability of these ecosystems to provide sustained coastal protection under persistent wave attack depends on their resistance to erosion. Although flume experiments show that roots of perennial plants contribute to foredune stabilization, the role of other plant organs, and of annual species, remains poorly studied. Furthermore, it remains unknown if restored foredunes provide the same level of erosion resistance as natural foredunes. We investigated the capacity of three widespread pioneer foredune species (the perennial Ammophila arenaria and the annuals Cakile maritima and Salsola kali) to resist dune erosion, and compared the erosion resistance of Ammophila at natural and restored sites.

          Methods

          Cores collected in the field were tested in a flume that simulated a wave swash. A multi-model inference approach was used to disentangle the contributions of different below-ground compartments (i.e. roots, rhizomes, buried shoots) to erosion resistance.

          Key Results

          All three species reduced erosion, with Ammophila having the strongest effect (36 % erosion reduction versus unvegetated cores). Total below-ground biomass (roots, rhizomes and shoots), rather than any single compartment, most parsimoniously explained erosion resistance. Further analysis revealed that buried shoots had the clearest individual contribution. Despite similar levels of total below-ground biomass, coarser sediment reduced erosion resistance of Ammophila cores from the restored site relative to the natural site.

          Conclusions

          The total below-ground biomass of both annual and perennial plants, including roots, rhizomes and buried shoots, reduced dune erosion under a swash regime. Notably, we show that (1) annual pioneer species offer erosion protection, (2) buried shoots are an important plant component in driving sediment stabilization, and (3) management must consider both biological (plants and their traits) and physical (grain size) factors when integrating dunes into schemes for coastal protection.

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          Most cited references 33

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          Going underground: root traits as drivers of ecosystem processes.

          Ecologists are increasingly adopting trait-based approaches to understand how community change influences ecosystem processes. However, most of this research has focussed on aboveground plant traits, whereas it is becoming clear that root traits are important drivers of many ecosystem processes, such as carbon (C) and nutrient cycling, and the formation and structural stability of soil. Here, we synthesise emerging evidence that illustrates how root traits impact ecosystem processes, and propose a pathway to unravel the complex roles of root traits in driving ecosystem processes and their response to global change. Finally, we identify research challenges and novel technologies to address them.
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            The Value of Coastal Wetlands for Hurricane Protection

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              Does vegetation prevent wave erosion of salt marsh edges?

              This study challenges the paradigm that salt marsh plants prevent lateral wave-induced erosion along wetland edges by binding soil with live roots and clarifies the role of vegetation in protecting the coast. In both laboratory flume studies and controlled field experiments, we show that common salt marsh plants do not significantly mitigate the total amount of erosion along a wetland edge. We found that the soil type is the primary variable that influences the lateral erosion rate and although plants do not directly reduce wetland edge erosion, they may do so indirectly via modification of soil parameters. We conclude that coastal vegetation is best-suited to modify and control sedimentary dynamics in response to gradual phenomena like sea-level rise or tidal forces, but is less well-suited to resist punctuated disturbances at the seaward margin of salt marshes, specifically breaking waves.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Annals of Botany
                Oxford University Press (OUP)
                0305-7364
                1095-8290
                October 21 2019
                October 21 2019
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Biosciences, Swansea University, Swansea, UK
                Article
                10.1093/aob/mcz125
                © 2019

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