• Characterising the salt-marsh resource using multi-spectral remote sensing: A case study of the Dee estuary in north-west England

      Huckle, Jonathan M.; Marrs, Robert H.; Potter, Jacqueline; University College Chester (2004)
    • Colonisation and development of salt mark in the Dee estuary, NW England: Integrating large-scale pattern and small-scale ecological process

      Marrs, Robert H.; Potter, Jacqueline; Huckle, Jonathan M. (University of Liverpool (Chester College of Higher Education), 2000-07)
      The Dee estuary, one of the most important British estuaries in terms of size and conservation value, has been subject to extensive colonisation and development of intertidal mudflats by salt marsh vegetation. In the last century, acceleration of this process has been attributed to the ability of Spartina anglica C.E. Hubbard to colonise bare sediment. The research in this thesis aims to investigate the ecological patterns and processes involved in the development of salt marsh vegetation. These have been examined using a large-scale approach involving remote sensing techniques and a small-scale approach to examine ecological processes at the level of the individual plant and species. Large-scale temporal patterns in the distribution were investigated by analysing a sequence of monochrome aerial photographs dating from 1955 to 1997. At the marsh apex, initial rapid colonisation was followed by a decreased rate of expansion and a reduction in the pioneer zone. This suggested a steepening of the marsh elevation gradient, which is interpreted as the marsh approaching its natural limit of expansion. The rate of salt marsh expansion was consistent across the time sequence for the second target area, a cross-section of the marsh gradient, but with S. a«g/zca-dominated colonisation of mudflats changing to colonisation by a pioneer community co-dominated by S. anglica and Salicornia europaea. Large-scale spatial distribution patterns were further investigated using multispectral remote sensing data from 1997. Radiometric data were used to define the spectral characteristics of the major types of salt marsh vegetation. Airborne Thematic Mapper data were used to classify the reflectance data from the whole marsh to determine the spatial distribution of plant communities based on their spectral characteristics. Mapping of these communities provided a baseline that will be a useful tool for future management of the salt marsh. An experimental approach was used to examine the role of abiotic and biotic factors on the growth and interactions between S. anglica and Puccinellia maritima (Huds.) Parl. In two series of competition experiments, P. maritima exerted a one¬way effect over S. anglica. The intensity of this interaction was increased in environmental conditions favourable to P. maritima, and was greater in terms of above-ground than below-ground biomass. In both experiments, S. anglica exhibited a disproportionate reduction in below-ground competitive interaction in abiotic conditions less favourable to P. maritima. A corresponding increase in rhizomes suggested that this is a potential mechanism by which S. anglica may evade competitive neighbours at low marsh elevations. An appreciation of the importance of scale has led to a multi-scaled and holistic view of the ecological process of salt marsh colonisation and development. Integration of both large and small-scale approaches has provided valuable information on the ecological patterns and processes, and has important implications for current and future management of salt marsh in the Dee estuary.
    • Influence of environmental factors on the growth and interactions between salt marsh plants: Effects of salinity, sediment and waterlogging

      Huckle, Jonathan M.; Potter, Jacqueline; Marrs, Robert H.; University College Chester ; University College Chester ; University of Liverpool (British Ecological Society, 2009-07-21)
      Artificial environmental gradients were established in a series of pot experiments to investigate the effect of salinity, sediment type and waterlogging on the growth, and interactions between Spartina anglica and Puccinellia maritima. In each experiment, one environmental variable was manipulated and plants grown in pairwise combinations to examine the effect of the environmental factor on the intensity of intra- and interspecific interactions, quantified using the Relative Neighbour Effect (RNE) index. 2 Puccinellia was found to exert an asymmetric, one-way competitive dominance above ground over Spartina in experiments where gradients of sediment type and waterlogging were established. The intensity of the competition was highest in conditions with the least abiotic stress and lower or non-existent where stress was increased. 3 The intensity of the above-ground competition was greatest in loam and least in sand sediments. Reduction in competitive intensity in sand was accompanied by an increase in below-ground Spartina biomass and it is suggested that the production of rhizomes is a potential mechanism by which this species can expand vegetatively into areas without competition. 4 Interspecific competition on Spartina from Puccinellia also varied in intensity in the waterlogging experiment, being more intense in non-immersed treatments, where abiotic stress was reduced. 5 The competitive dominance of Puccinellia and the competition avoidance mechanism shown by Spartina in these experiments help to explain the successional interactions between the species along environmental gradients in natural salt marsh communities.
    • Interspecific and intraspecific interactions between salt marsh plants: Integrating the effects of environmental factors and density on plant performance

      Huckle, Jonathan M.; Marrs, Robert H.; Potter, Jacqueline; University of Liverpool ; University of Liverpool ; Chester College of Higher Education (Nordic Ecological Society, 2002-02)
      There has been much debate about the role of plant interactions in the structure and function of vegetation communities. Here the results of a pot experiment with controlled environments are described where three environmental variables (nutrients, sediment type and waterlogging) were manipulated factorially to identify their effects on the growth and intensity of interactions occurring between Spartina anglica and Puccinellia maritima. The two species were grown in split-plot planting treatments, representing intraspecific and interspecific addition series experiments, to determine individual and interactive effects of environmental factors and plant interactions on plant biomass. Above-ground growth of both species involved interactions between the environmental and planting treatments, while below-ground, environmental factors affected the biomass irrespective of planting treatments. It was suggested that this difference in growth response is evidence that in our experiment plant interactions between the two species occur primarily at the above-ground level. The intensity of plant interactions varied in a number of ways. First, interactions between Spartina and Puccinellia were distinctly asymmetrical, Puccinellia exerting a competitive effect on Spartina, with no reciprocal effect, and with a facilitative effect of Spartina on Puccinellia in low nutrient conditions. Second, the interactions varied in intensity in different environmental conditions. Interspecific competitive effects of Puccinellia on Spartina were more intense in conditions favourable to growth of Puccinellia and reduced or non-existent in environments with more abiotic stress. Third, intraspecific competition was found to be less intense for both species than interspecific interactions. Finally, the intensity of plant interactions involving both species was more intense above ground than below ground, with a disproportionate reduction in the intensity of interspecific competition below relative to above ground in treatments with less productive sediments and greater immersion. This is interpreted as reflecting a potential mechanism by which Spartina may be able to evade competitive neighbours.
    • Spatial and temporal changes in the distribution of salt marsh vegetation communities in the Dee estuary, NW England, determinded from aerial photographs

      Huckle, Jonathan M.; Potter, Jacqueline; Marrs, Robert H.; University College Chester (Potter) (Springer, 2004)