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Effects of Planting Depth, Sediment Grain Size, and Nutrients on Ruppia maritima and Potamogeton perfoliatus Seedling Emergence and Growth

Ailstock, M. Stephen, Shafer, Deborah J., Magoun, A. Dale
Restoration ecology 2010 v.18 no.4 pp. 574-583
Potamogeton perfoliatus, Ruppia maritima, aboveground biomass, biomass production, buried seeds, germination, leaves, nutrients, planting, roots, sediments, seedling emergence, seedling growth, seedlings, survival rate
Protocols are now available for seed harvest, storage and germination of several mesohaline and polyhaline species; however, low seedling survival rates point to the need for an increased understanding of factors affecting seedling establishment. Depth of seed burial in sediments and initial seedling growth rates are shown to be limiting factors for photosynthetic competency of Ruppia maritima and Potamogeton perfoliatus. Seedling emergence is inversely proportional to planting depth on sediments ranging in grain size from coarse sands (850 μm) to silt (63 μm). Less than 6% of the seeds of either species emerged when buried to a depth of 3 cm in test sediments. Germination was greatest for seeds placed on the surface of sediments; however, these seedlings were subject to displacement because of the weak and fragile roots produced during early growth. Fine sediments may be more favorable for R. maritima seedling establishment, because seedling emergence and height decreased with increasing sediment grain size. Potamogeton perfoliatus seedlings seem to be more tolerant of a wider range of sediment grain sizes than R. maritima as indicated by the lack of an effect of sediment grain size on P. perfoliatus seed emergence, seedling height, and biomass. Increasing nutrients stimulated seedlings of both species; however, even at the highest concentrations tested, growth, as determined by shoot elongation and leaf and root formation, slowed within 7-10 days. This suggests factors other than mineral nutrients and light limit growth or that growth shifts from aboveground biomass production to belowground vegetative spread.