Continued loss of coastal wetlands due to anthropogenic causes along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts has increased the need to restore eroded or hardened structures along the shoreline back to natural marsh systems. The source of plant material used in these restoration plantings may have unintended consequences for the reestablishment of marsh systems, especially if the plant material is not adapted to the local environment. In this two-year field study, we tested the hypothesis that locally collected Spartina alterniflora (Smooth Cordgrass) will have higher plant performance than non-local commercially available plant material from native plant nurseries. We found that locally collected S. alterniflora plants had higher survivorship, aboveground biomass, and cumulative stem length than plants from non-local sources. There was a significant association between plant performance and genetic similarity at the end of the first field season. Based on our findings, we recommend the use of locally collected S. alterniflora from adjacent salt marshes for small-scale salt marsh restoration projects; however, care should be taken to not degrade the donor marsh during the process.
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Vol. 11 • No. 4