Magee, T.K., and M.E. Kentula. 2005. Response of wetland plant species to hydrologic conditions. Wetlands Ecology and Management 13:163-181. WED-01-133
Understanding hydrologic requirements of native and introduced species is critical to sustaining native plant communities in wetlands of disturbed landscapes. We examined plant assemblages, and 31 of the most common species comprising them, from emergent wetlands in an urbanizing area of the Pacific Northwest, USA, in relation to in situ, fine-scale hydrology. Percent cover by plant species was estimated in 2208 1-m2 plots across 43 sites, with water depth at time of vegetation sampling measured in 432 plots. Three years of bi-weekly hydrologic data from each of the 43 sites were used to estimate mean surface water level and mean absolute difference (MAD) in surface water level for every plot. Nine assemblages of plant species that co-occur in the field were identified using TWINSPAN. The assemblage richest in native species occurred under intermediate hydrologic conditions and was bracketed by pasture grass dominated assemblages at drier conditions with low water level variability, and Phalaris arundinacea L. assemblages with higher mean water levels and variability. Results suggest minor changes in average water levels (~10 cm) or in variability (±2 cm in MAD) could promote a shift from assemblages dominated by natives to those dominated by invasive or alien taxa. Canonical correspondence analysis segregated the species into four groups related to hydrologic gradients. Each species response group was typified by taxa with similar optima for a given environmental variable, with each group related to a characteristic suite of hydrologic conditions. The most common species (P. arundinacea, Juncus effusus L., and Typha latifolia L.), each representing a different response group, exhibited unique responses in occurrence/abundance in relation to water level variability, but were abundant over a wide range of water depth. The realized niches of other species in each response group were more restricted, with peaks in cover confined to narrower ranges of water depth and variability.