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Journal Article

The relation between vegetation zonation, elevation and inundation frequency in a Wadden Sea salt marsh


Bockelmann,  Anna-C.
Department Ecophysiology, Max Planck Institute for Limnology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Max Planck Society;

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Bockelmann, A.-C., Bakker, J. P., Neuhaus, R., & Lage, J. (2002). The relation between vegetation zonation, elevation and inundation frequency in a Wadden Sea salt marsh. Aquatic Botany, 73(3), 211-221.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-000F-DD21-8
In order to explain biological zonation, shore height above the ordnance level is frequently used as an indicator of the abiotic gradient in intertidal ecosystems. This is based on the implicit assumption that shore height is directly correlated with inundation frequency and/or duration. Despite the importance of inundation for tidal ecosystems, measurements have rarely been taken directly by measuring inundation at the site of investigation. We measured mean high tide (MHT) and flooding frequency at three sites on the Dutch Barrier Island of Schiermonnikoog. To assess the scale dependence, we compared local measurements with the estimated inundation frequencies based on the official tide gauge (OTG) farther away. Locally measured MHT water levels differed among sites and were consistently higher than estimated MHT water levels. With this data, we subsequently estimated the inundation frequency of vegetation plots from our measurements and correlated it with species distribution. In a logistic regression inundation frequency accounted for twice the variance in explaining the dominance of three salt marsh species than shore height. The discrepancy in annual inundation frequency of the vegetation between sites was less than or equal to300% for a given shore height. Within each site replicated estimates of inundation frequency proved to be consistent (scale 10-50 m). Estimated and measured inundation frequencies thus reliably correlated at a small-scale (tens of metres), but not at a larger scale (hundreds of metres to kilometres). If inundation frequency is used as an explanatory variable, it will therefore be advisable to consider the spatial heterogeneity of the measurements, in particular if different sites are to be compared. We give mean inundation frequencies of three dominant salt marsh species (Elymus athericus, Festuca rubra, Artemisia maritima) measured over 1 year. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.