Question: The vegetation in a polder after partial tidal restoration does not resemble the targeted salt-marsh vegetation. Is this difference in vegetation due to lack of dispersal or unsuitable abiotic conditions ? What could be done for a better restoration of the site?
Location: Northwestern France.
Methods: Seeds were trapped at the single inlet of the polder with a 200-μm mesh net to estimate inputs of seeds from the bay. In parallel, seed dispersal was studied in the polder by placing Astroturf® seed traps on the surface of the sediment at three different elevations in three distinct areas. Abiotic conditions such as flooding frequency, water table level and soil salinity were monitored.
Results: All but one species from the adjacent salt marshes were trapped at the inlet. Not all of these species were on the seed traps inside the polder. Seed dispersal was not homogeneous in the polder and seed trap content mostly discriminated in function of their elevation. Salinity and water logging at the bottom of the slope were very high compared to tolerance of most halophytes but decreased rapidly higher up the slope.
Conclusions: The development of salt marsh target species is highly restricted by limited hydrochory inside the polder but also by unfavourable soil conditions induced by the actual hydrological regime. Halophytes are excluded at the bottom of the slope by abiotic conditions and out-competed by subhalophytes higher up. In order to restore salt marsh vegetation inside the polder, a larger opening should be induced in order to increase the flooded surface, and diminish water logging and flooding frequencies.