Ecophysiological characteristics of invasive Spartina alterniflora and native species in salt marshes of Yangtze River estuary, China

Li Fen Jiang, Yi Qi Luo, Jia Kuan Chen, Bo Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Biological invasions represent one of the significant components of global change. A comparative study of invaders and co-occurring natives is a useful approach to gaining insights into the invasiveness of exotic plants. Spartina alterniflora, a C4 grass, is a widespread invader in the coastal wetlands in China and other regions of the world. We conducted a comparative study of S. alterniflora and native C3 species, Phragmites australis and Scirpus mariqueter, in terms of their gas exchange and efficiencies in resource utilization. We tested the hypothesis that S. alterniflora has growth-related ecophysiological advantages over the natives in its non-native range, which result in its rapid growth and enhance its invasiveness. Photosynthesis, leaf area index (LAI), specific leaf area (SLA), and the efficiency of resource use (light, water, and nitrogen) were examined monthly for eight months in 2004. Overall, S. alterniflora had greater LAI, higher maximal net photosynthetic rate (Amax), and longer growing season than those of the native species. On average, the efficiencies of S. alterniflora in light, water, and nitrogen utilization were respectively 10.1%, 26.1%, and 33.1% higher than those of P. australis, and respectively 70.3%, 53.5%, 28.3% higher than those of S. mariqueter. However, SLA of S. alterniflora was significantly lower than those of P. australis and S. mariqueter. Although there was no general pattern in the relationship between invasiveness and plant photosynthetic types, in this study, most of the ecophysiological characteristics that gave S. alterniflora a competitive advantage in the Yangtze River estuary were associated with photosynthetic pathways. Our results offer a greater understanding of the relationship between invasiveness and plant photosynthetic type. Our results also indicate that LAI and the length of the photosynthetic season, which vary with habitats, are also important in invasion success.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)74-82
Number of pages9
JournalEstuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • ecophysiology
  • estuaries
  • gas exchange
  • plant invasion
  • salt marshes
  • spartina alterniflora
  • yangtze River estuary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science


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