In September Steve traveled to Tianjin, China, to visit his old student Hongyu Guo. It was great to see him and also to see his wife Yinhua and their daughter Serena. Shanze Li, who spent time in Steve’s lab in Houston as a visiting graduate student, also joined us for lunch one day from Beijing. Near Tianjin is the Qilihai wetland, a large Phragmites wetland that is also a location of extensive aquaculture of the famous mitten crabs, which we sampled at a memorable lunch that also included grasshoppers, beetles, shrimp and other delicacies.
We’re excited about progress on our micronutrient experiment at the UH Coastal Center, and here’s an article and video with an update.
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.
Steve and colleagues publish paper on latitudinal variation in reproduction affecting invasion of Spartina in China
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.