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PLoS One. 2013 May 24;8(5):e64064. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0064064. Print 2013.

Influence of neighboring plants on shading stress resistance and recovery of eelgrass, Zostera marina L.

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  • 1Environmental and Marine Biology, Department of Biosciences, Åbo Akademi University, Åbo, Finland.


Stressful environments may enhance the occurrence of facilitative interspecific interactions between plants. In several regions, Zostera marina occurs in mixed assemblages. However, the potential effects of plant diversity on stress responses and stability properties of Z. marina are poorly understood. We investigated the resistance and recovery of Z. marina subjected to shading (1 mo) in a field experiment lasting 2.5 mo. We shaded Z. marina planted in mono- and polycultures (Potamogeton perfoliatus, P. pectinatus, P. filiformis) in a factorial design (Shading×Richness) at 2 m depth. We estimated the resistance and recovery of Z. marina by measuring four response variables. Polyculture Z. marina lost proportionally less biomass than monocultures, thus having a greater resistance to shading. In contrast, after a 1 mo recovery period, monocultures exhibited higher biomass gain, and a faster recovery than polycultures. Our results suggest that plant species richness enhances the resistance of Z. marina through facilitative mechanisms, while the faster recovery in monocultures is possibly due to interspecific competition. Our results highlight the need of a much better understanding of the effects of interspecific interactions on ecosystem processes in mixed seagrass meadows, and the preservation of diverse plant assemblages to maintain ecosystem functioning.

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