Steve, Anna Armitage and John Kominoski recently received a RAPID grant from NSF to compare marshes and mangroves with respect to how well they protect coasts from severe weather like hurricanes. The work builds on their ongoing mangrove density experiment in Port Aransas. They have plots ranging from 0 to 100 percent mangrove cover, and Hurricane Harvey basically passed directly over the plots. This provided a great opportunity to see how the storm effects varied with mangrove density. This weekend we’re out sampling vegetation, erosion, and decomposition in the plots. There is a lot of debris–telephone poles, dock sections, and parts of a house–in the plots. The city of Port Aransas looks hammered, with lots of houses and businesses destroyed. And a barge exploded off the coast overnight. Not our fault, honest!
The photo below shows a house section in one of our plots.
Wenwen Liu is in Houston as a visiting scholar in Steve’s lab for a year or so. This picture shows him in the mangroves near Port Aransas. Wenwen is working on a PhD under the direction of Yihui Zhang in Xiamen University in China. While in the US he’ll work on some papers, collect some new data, and work on his English.
Congratulations to Chuan-Kai Ho (shown here at the 2015 ESA meeting) who has been promoted to Associate Professor at the National Taiwan University! We wish him continued success.
Spartina alterniflora, the dominant plant of Atlantic and Gulf coast salt marshes in the United S tates, is introduced in China, where it has spread to occupy a geographic range similar to that in its native range in North America. Liu et al 2017, Provenance-by-environment interaction of reproductive traits in the invasion of Spartina alterniflora in China, Ecology 98(6):1591-1599, show that, in China, plants at high latitudes are morphologically different and set more seed than plants at low latitudes. Common garden experiments showed that the morphological differences are largely plastic, due to environmental conditions, but that the differences in sexual reproduction are genetic but expressed most strongly in high-latitude gardens (hence the provenance by environment interaction). In the field, the mechanisms of invasion differ by latitude: Spartina spreads by seeds and seedlings at high latitudes but clonal expansion at low latitudes. The lead author, Wenwen Liu, will be spending a year in Steve Pennings’ laboratory starting this fall, and hopes to learn more about latitudinal variation in sexual reproduction in Spartina alterniflora in its native range. Surprisingly, we know almost nothing about this topic.
Pennings in special noodle shop. Strong contemplating fate of Chinese puppy. Zhang, Liu, Strong, Pennings editing manuscript.
Congratulations to Fan Li for successfully defending her dissertation! She will be revising it for the library, submitting a couple papers and then heading to China in about a month.
Fan at her field study site in Georgia
Shanze Li and Steve Pennings recently published a paper on how the timing of wrack disturbance determines its effects on Spartina alterniflora and on stem-boring herbivores of Spartina. Plants completely recover from disturbance early in the season in terms of growth, and early disturbance actually stimulated flowering. Plants did not recover from disturbance later in the season, and flowering was suppressed. Plants disturbed late in the season also had a low frequency of stem-boring herbivores. The paper was featured on the cover of the journal Ecosphere, and is open access: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ecs2.1675/full
Our long-standing experimental project on the spread of mangroves in the Gulf Coast has produced its first paper. Hongyu led the effort, which describes how mangrove cover affects microclimate, marsh vegetation, wrack disturbance, sedimentation, soil organic content, and bird use of the wetlands. Ecology 98:762-772.
Top photo: I don’t know his name, but this grizzled veteran of the mangroves assisted me with the water quality instrument.
Bottom photo: Our noble leader Hongyu hard at work measuring mangroves.