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Abiotic edaphic factors affecting the growth of a threatened North American Sunflower, Helianthus paradoxus (Asteraceae)

Bush, J. K.
Plant ecology 2006 v.183 no.2 pp. 215-225
Helianthus annuus, aboveground biomass, edaphic factors, experimental design, oxygen, regression analysis, salt marshes, soil salinity, soil water, North America
This study evaluated the relationships among soil moisture, soil salinity, and soil oxygen on the growth of Helianthus paradoxus (Asteraceae), a threatened inland salt marsh species of western North America. The study was conducted in large growth boxes (1×2×0.3 m) tilted at an angle to achieve a saturated to dry water gradient similar to that found in the marsh. This experimental design allowed the evaluation of major abiotic factors (soil moisture and soil salinity) which have been shown to be potentially important for this species, while removing major biotic factors, such as competition from other community dominants. Maximum aboveground biomass occurred in the middle rows of the boxes, where surface soil water was reduced and subsurface soil water was intermediate in the gradient. Regression analyses indicated that H. paradoxus would grow best where surface soil water is approximately 5%, subsurface soil water ranges from 20 to 30%, and where surface soil salinity is less than 0.5 g kg⁻¹. Edaphic variables, particularly soil moisture and soil salinity, affect the growth of H. paradoxus. Data presented here suggest that the survival of this species depends on maintenance of the hydrologic regime.