Seed viability, germination, and early survival of Spartina alterniflora from the Bay of Fundy and Northumberland Strait for salt marsh restoration

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Lyle M. Vicaire , Allen D. Beck , Myriam A. Barbeau

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Along the east coasts of North America, the saltwater cordgrass Spartina alterniflora is the bioengineer species of salt marshes, and essential for salt marsh restoration. However, at north temperate latitudes, little is known about its reproductive biology. Our research objective is to determine and compare seed viability, germination success and early seedling survival for different populations of S. alterniflora (both phenotypes: short and tall forms) in Maritime Canada. Specifically, we had short-form and tall-form S. alterniflora locations for each of 4 replicate salt marshes in each of the Bay of Fundy (macrotidal environment) and Northumberland Strait (microtidal environment). In September-October 2020, we collected ripe seeds (i.e., caryopsis) from each location once our shake test showed ~10 felled seeds. Seeds were stored for cold stratification, submerged in freshwater and 40 ppt saltwater at 4o C for ~12 wk. Following this, seed viability tested using tetrazolium chloride (TTC) was ~35–55%. Germination, under recommended diurnal thermoperiod conditions and scored using appearance of embryonic shoot (epicotyl) and root, was on average 35±1% after 2 wks and 45±2% after 1 mo (±SE, n=252 batches), with higher germination following freshwater (41–50% after 2 wks) than saltwater (22–26%) storage. Further, germination patterns were similar for short-form and tall-form phenotypes, but more variable and somewhat lower in the Northumberland Strait than in Bay of Fundy. Growth and survival of seedlings are being quantified in the greenhouse under three watering treatments: 0 ppt, 10 ppt, and incremental increases of 5 ppt/wk starting at 10 ppt, until full strength seawater is reached. Current average seedling survival after 8 wks in the greenhouse is 50.1%. Future plans include evaluating performance of seedling during outplanting in summer 2021. This research will contribute to creating a guide for salt marsh restoration and creation for Maritime Canada, by evaluating the strategy of using S. alterniflora seedlings.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

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