Responses of grasses to experimental submergence in summer: implications for the management of unseasonal flows in regulated rivers
AuthorVivian, LM; Greet, J; Jones, CS
Source TitleAquatic Ecology: a multidisciplinary journal relating to processes and structures at different organizational levels
Document TypeJournal Article
CitationsVivian, L. M., Greet, J. & Jones, C. S. (2020). Responses of grasses to experimental submergence in summer: implications for the management of unseasonal flows in regulated rivers. AQUATIC ECOLOGY, 54 (4), pp.985-999. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10452-020-09788-4.
Access StatusOpen Access
Abstract River regulation has altered the seasonal timing of flows in many rivers worldwide, impacting the survival and growth of riparian plants. In south-eastern Australia, demand for irrigation water in summer often results in high river flows during a season that would naturally experience low flows. Although unseasonal high summer flows are thought to significantly impact waterways, their effects on vegetation are poorly quantified. We investigated the responses of five grass species commonly occurring in riparian zones to different durations of submergence in summer. We experimentally tested the response of three exotic and two native grasses to four submergence treatments (4 weeks, 8 weeks, 2-week pulses and no submergence), and two levels of shading (no shading and 80% light reduction), over 8 weeks in summer and early autumn. All submergence treatments, including the 2-week pulse, resulted in the death of all plants of three species (Bromus catharticus, Dactylis glomerata and Rytidosperma caespitosum). Lolium perenne exhibited moderate survival rates in the shorter-duration unshaded submergence treatments, while Poa labillardierei largely survived all treatments. Similar responses across species were observed for plant height and biomass, although height generally increased while biomass growth was reduced by shading. These results show that even 2-week periods of summer submergence can reduce growth and cause the death of some riparian grasses. Although some species may survive longer submergence durations, impacts on other aspects of fitness, and ongoing effects of repeated unseasonal submergence, remain uncertain. Our study highlights that the impacts of unseasonal flows require further investigation and careful management.
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