Steve and Don Strong have been working with Yihui Zhang in China over the past few years. A paper based on this collaboration is now published in the Journal of Ecology. It describes phenotypic variation in exotic Spartina alterniflora in China. Spartina alterniflora is now widespread along the Chinese coast. Across this distribution, plants exhibit phenotypic variation in plant height, shoot density and sexual reproduction, but most of this variation disappears in a common garden, indicating that it is mostly due to plasticity rather than fixed genetic traits. In the native range, at least some latitudinal variation in Spartina traits has a fixed genetic basis. Some of the latitudinal patterns are similar to those found across latitude in the native range in the US, but others are different or have not been studied in the US. Thus, the latitudinal clines show some different patterns and have different underlying mechanisms in the native and exotic ranges.
Liu, W., Maung-Douglass, K., Strong, D.R., Pennings, S.C. and Zhang, Y. (2016). Geographical variation in vegetative growth and sexual reproduction of the invasive Spartina alterniflora in China. Journal of Ecology 104:173-181.
Photograph: Yihui and his students measure introduced Spartina alterniflora in China.
Laurie Marczak, Kazik and Steve have a new paper in Journal of Ecology exploring how local versus geographic variation in traits of Spartina alterniflora affect herbivores (Prokelisia planthoppers). As shown before, local variation (tall versus short form, simulated in our study by fertilizing) was very important for herbivores, which do better on tall form plants. Although high-latitude plants are more palatable to herbivores than low-latitude plants, this affected population growth only slightly. Predators (spiders) and top omnivores (Orchelimum) affected Prokelisia, but these effects were mediated by bottom-up conditions. These results allow us to start putting local studies of Spartina-herbivore interactions into a better geographic context.
Marczak, L. B., K. Więski, R. F. Denno and S. C. Pennings. 2013. Importance of local versus geographical variation in saltmarsh plant quality for arthropod herbivore communities. Journal of Ecology 101:1169-1182.
The journal Oceanography just published a special issue focusing on the coastal LTER sites. The issue includes several papers from the GCE LTER, including one using remote sensing to estimate plant composition and biomass and invertebrate densities. Alana Lynes and Steve were among the authors.
Schalles, J. F., C. M. Hladik, A. A. Lynes and S. C. Pennings. 2013. Landscape estimates of habitat types, plant biomass, and invertebrate densities in a Georgia salt marsh. Oceanography 26:88-97.