Ammophila arenaria (L.) Link (marram grass) in South Africa and its potential invasiveness

Hertling, U.M. (1998) Ammophila arenaria (L.) Link (marram grass) in South Africa and its potential invasiveness. PhD thesis, Rhodes University.

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Abstract

Ammophila arenaria (L.) Link is a European sand binding plant which was introduced to South Africa in the 1870's for the purpose of dune stabilisation. Because of its known invasiveness along the west coast of North America, and the problems South African ecosystems experience with alien invader plants, it was deemed necessary to study the biology and ecology of this species in South Africa. The aim of this thesis is to establish the potential invasiveness of A. arenaria on Cape coastal dunes and assess whether its use for dune stabilisation is still justifiable. A. arenaria occurs nowadays between the Langebaan area on the west coast and Gonubie in the Eastern Cape. Although widespread, the grass appears to occur only in areas where it has been planted. Its unaided spread may be prevented by adverse climatic conditions. Studies on the community biology of South African A. arenaria communities as compared to indigenous dune plant communities and natural A. arenaria communities in Europe cannot confirm the aggressive behaviour that A. arenaria shows in California and Oregon. In South Africa, A. arenaria does not exert strong floristic control over other species or outcompete and replace them, neither does it alter the topography of South African beaches and dunes. It forms weaker species associations and tends to develop communities of little species variability along the coast, thereby proving its alienness in South Africa, but this does not imply its invasiveness. Studies on succession of A. arenaria stabilisation areas show that monospecific A. arenaria plantings can be succeeded by a species-rich indigenous dune scrub or dune fynbos within a few decades. Plant-parasitic nematodes have been recorded, which may play an important role in the succession of A. arenaria stands in South Africa as was observed in Europe. Monitoring of A. arenaria communities and indigenous communities over nearly three years shows that A. arenaria is not spreading and replacing indigenous plants but in fact rather being replaced by the latter. A. arenaria profits from a superior sand burial tolerance but is affected by adverse climatic factors, mostly the lack of rainfall and strong radiation. In comparison to the indigenous dune grasses Thinopyrum distichum and Ehrharta villosa, it does not show any superior demographic traits such as an unusually high growth rate or large aboveground biomass production. Although A. arenaria produces viable seed in South Africa, the indigenous grasses show better germination and seedling establishment in the field. This study indicates that A. arenaria is not invasive in South Africa, nor likely to become an invader species in the near future. However, more research is required to confirm these results and more caution recommended regarding the further use of this alien grass for dune stabilisation.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords:marram grass, South Africa, Alien plants
Subjects:Q Science > QK Botany
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Science > Botany
ID Code:2852
Deposited By: Mrs Carol Perold
Deposited On:22 May 2012 09:38
Last Modified:22 May 2012 09:38
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