First Advisor

Alan Yeakley

Date of Publication

Spring 6-8-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Environmental Sciences and Resources


Environmental Sciences and Resources




Wetland restoration -- Columbia River Estuary (Or. and Wash.), Estuarine restoration -- Columbia River Estuary (Or. and Wash.), Invasive plants -- Seeds -- Viability, Germination, Seeds -- Effect of salt on, Seeds -- Effect of floods on, Reed canary grass, Juncus effusus



Physical Description

1 online resource (xviii, 325 pages)


In the restoration of tidal wetland ecosystems, potential drivers of plant community development range from biotic controls (e.g. plant competition, seed dispersal) to abiotic controls (e.g. tidal flooding, salinity levels). How these controls influence the success of tidal wetland restoration are only partly understood, but have important implications for wetland habitat recovery. Specifically, the extent to which the existing native and non-native seed banks in tidally reconnected wetlands interact with these controls is not clear, yet the potential success of passive restoration methods depends upon this understanding.

For a 54-year chronosequence of eleven tidal wetland restoration sites in the Lower Columbia River of western Oregon, USA, it was hypothesized that native plant species and soil properties would show trends approaching reference levels within 3 to 20 years post-restoration and that lower elevation wetland areas within restored sites would exhibit a greater native species abundance and similarity to reference sites, compared with restored high elevation wetland areas. Results indicated that plant species richness, soil organic matter, bulk density, pH, and salinity conditions among the restoration sites reached reference wetland ranges within 3-6 years post-tidal reconnection. The mid-low marsh elevation zones (<2.5 m) recovered native plant cover within 3-6 years post-tidal reconnection, while high marsh elevation zones (>2.5 m) remained dominated by nonnative species Phalaris arundinacea and Juncus effusus subsp. effusus.

To investigate the mechanisms driving these non-native plant invasions, it was ii hypothesized that native and non-native wetland plant community distributions would be reflective both of their abundance in the seed bank and of their germination tolerance to wetland tidal flooding and salinity conditions. Using a factorial study design of three tidal conditions by three salinity levels, these hypotheses were tested in the greenhouse. Overall, non-native seeds were found to significantly outnumber native seeds in both seed banks. In the greenhouse, P. arundinacea and J. effusus were found to germinate more readily out of the seed bank under freshwater high-marsh flooding (1 hour a day) treatments as compared to oligohaline (3 ppt) mid-low marsh flooding (3-6 hours twice a day) treatments and to brackish salinity (10 ppt) treatments. Dominant native wetland species, Carex lyngbyei and Schoenoplectus lacustris, germination were not found to vary significantly among the treatments (p > 0.10).

These results indicate that the salinity and flooding gradients within these restored marshes suppress germination of the non-native species in the low-mid marsh but not in the high marsh, where they are likely able to outcompete the native species due to their dominance in the seed bank. The implications of these results for passive tidal wetland restoration efforts are that both seed bank composition and species-specific tolerances to restored tidal flooding and salinity gradients are key mechanisms driving native and nonnative plant community development and resilience.


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