Density-dependent role of an invasive marsh grass, phragmites Australis, on ecosystem service provision

Seth J. Theuerkauf, Brandon J. Puckett, Kathrynlynn W. Theuerkauf, Ethan J. Theuerkauf, David B. Eggleston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Invasive species can positively, neutrally, or negatively affect the provision of ecosystem services. The direction and magnitude of this effect can be a function of the invaders' density and the service(s) of interest. We assessed the density-dependent effect of an invasive marsh grass, Phragmites australis, on three ecosystem services (plant diversity and community structure, shoreline stabilization, and carbon storage) in two oligohaline marshes within the North Carolina Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NCNERR), USA. Plant species richness was equivalent among low, medium and high Phragmites density plots, and overall plant community composition did not vary significantly by Phragmites density. Shoreline change was most negative (landward retreat) where Phragmites density was highest (-0.40 ± 0.19 m yr-1 vs. -0.31 ± 0.10 for low density Phragmites) in the high energy marsh of Kitty Hawk Woods Reserve and most positive (soundward advance) where Phragmites density was highest (0.19 ± 0.05 m yr-1 vs. 0.12 ± 0.07 for low density Phragmites) in the lower energy marsh of Currituck Banks Reserve, although there was no significant effect of Phragmites density on shoreline change. In Currituck Banks, mean soil carbon content was approximately equivalent in cores extracted from low and high Phragmites density plots (23.23 ± 2.0 kg C m-3 vs. 22.81 ± 3.8). In Kitty Hawk Woods, mean soil carbon content was greater in low Phragmites density plots (36.63 ± 10.22 kg C m-3 ) than those with medium (13.99 ± 1.23 kg C m-3 ) or high density (21.61 ± 4.53 kg C m-3 ), but differences were not significant. These findings suggest an overall neutral densitydependent effect of Phragmites on three ecosystem services within two oligohaline marshes in different environmental settings within a protected reserve system. Moreover, the conceptual framework of this study can broadly inform an ecosystem services-based approach to invasive species management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0173007
JournalPloS one
Volume12
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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