Microtopographical modification by a herbivore facilitates the growth of a coastal saltmarsh plant.


School of Environment, State Key Laboratory of Water Environment Simulation, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China. Electronic address: [Email]


Increasing evidence shows that herbivores can facilitate plant growth and maintain the resistance of plant communities to trophic consumption in a variety of ecosystems. However, the positive effects of herbivores on annual saltmarsh plants in coastal ecosystems are relatively understudied. In this study, field investigations and manipulative experiments were conducted to explore whether and how microtopographical modification by the herbivorous crab Helice tientsinensis stimulates the growth of the saltmarsh plant Suaeda salsa. Results showed that, despite grazing on S. salsa, H. tientsinensis can promote density, total biomass, average plant height, average root length, and average biomass through burrowing-generated concave-convex microtopography, which can improve the edaphic environment (decreased soil hardness and salinity, and increased soil moisture content, oxidation-reduction potential, and carbon and nitrogen content), and provide plants more clustered growth opportunities that could facilitate positive intraspecific plant interactions. This study can provide scientific guidance for ecosystem restoration in coastal intertidal saltmarshes.


Burrowing crabs,Facilitation,Herbivores,Microtopographical modification,Restoration,Saltmarsh plant,

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