COS 118-2 - Climate variability structures plant community dynamics in Mediterranean restored and reference tidal wetlands

Wednesday, August 9, 2017: 1:50 PM
B115, Oregon Convention Center
Dylan E. Chapple, Environmental Science, Policy and Management, UC Berkeley, Berkeley,, CA, Katharine N. Suding, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO and Adina M. Merenlender, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA

In Mediterranean regions and other areas with variable climates, precipitation variability between years may impact ecosystem dynamics, and by extension ecological restoration projects. Conditions at reference sites, which are often used to evaluate restoration outcomes, may also be influenced by weather variability, confounding interpretations of restoration trajectories. To better understand the influence of weather variability on plant community dynamics, we explore change over time using a vegetation dataset collected between 1990 and 2005 at a historic tidal wetland reference site and a nearby tidal wetland restoration project initiated in 1976 in California’s San Francisco (SF) Bay. To determine the factors influencing reference and restoration trajectories, we examine changes in plant community identity in relation to annual salinity levels in the SF Bay, annual rainfall and tidal channel structure.


Over the entire study period, both sites experienced significant directional change away from the 1990 community. Community change was accelerated following low salinity conditions that resulted from strong El Niño events in 1995 and 1998. Overall rates of changes were greater at the restoration site and driven by a combination of dominant and sub-dominant species, whereas change at the reference site was driven by sub-dominant species change. Sub-dominant species first appeared at the restoration site in 1996 and incrementally increased during each subsequent year, whereas sub-dominant species cover at the reference site peaked in 1999 and subsequently declined. Our results show that frequent, long-term monitoring is needed to adequately capture plant community dynamics in variable Mediterranean ecosystems and demonstrate the need for expanding restoration monitoring and timing restoration actions to match weather conditions.