Habitat requirements and population structure of the rare endangered Limonium girardianum in Mediterranean salt marshes

Abstract : The sea lavender Limonium girardianum (Guss.) Fourr. is endemic to the Mediterranean salt marshes of the French and Spanish coasts. Most of the salt marshes where L. girardianum occurs are exposed to human disturbance, in particular due to industrial expansion. To determine the ecological conditions favorable to the development of L. girardianum, we used a set of permanent plots distributed along a topographical gradient in eleven French salt marshes. We monitored intensity of flooding, water table depth, soil moisture, soil salinity and granulometry. We investigated (i) the abiotic and biotic requirements for L. girardianum and (ii) the effects of environmental conditions on the population structure of L. girardianum. We found a unimodal response of L. girardianum species to flooding, salt and soil moisture gradients. Soil texture modulated the effects of flooding and drought on the presence of the species. Furthermore , flooding induced population renewal, i.e. the highest seedling emergence and adult mortality. We recorded low seedling emergence in higher topographical positions. Proportions of seedlings were lowest on saltier soils and highest in flooded areas and on coarse sand. Prolonged flooding is likely to induce population renewal as long as remaining individuals are capable of reconstituting viable populations. To suggest efficient intermediate and long-term conservation strategies for L. girardianum, it will be necessary to consider the role of human-driven changes in salt marshes with regard to hydrology and control of the vegetation.
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Teddy Baumberger, Laurence Affre, Thomas Croze, François Mesléard. Habitat requirements and population structure of the rare endangered Limonium girardianum in Mediterranean salt marshes. Flora, Elsevier, 2012, 207 (4), pp.283-293. ⟨10.1016/j.flora.2011.11.008⟩. ⟨hal-01327261⟩

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