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Biological Flora of the British Isles: Sarcocornia perennis (Miller) A.J. Scott

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Summary



This account reviews information on all aspects of the biology of Sarcocornia perennis that are relevant to understanding its ecological characteristics and behaviour. The main topics are presented within the standard framework of the Biological Flora of the British Isles: distribution, habitat, communities, responses to biotic factors, responses to environment, structure and physiology, phenology, floral and seed characters, herbivores and disease, history, and conservation.



Sarcocornia perennis (Miller) A.J. Scott (Salicornia perennis Miller; Salicornia radicans Sm.; Arthrocnemum [Arthrocnemon]perenne (Miller) Moss) of the European and African coasts is now considered also to include Salicornia virginica L., S. ambigua Michx. and S. gaudichaudiana Moq. of the Americas. Sarcocornia perennis is a spreading, jointed-stemmed, halophyte that differs from the closely related Salicornia in being a shrubby perennial and in aspects of inflorescence structure. In Britain, it is found mainly on the coasts of south-east England, on gravelly or sandy foreshores, and well-drained sediments of tidal salt marshes.



Sarcocornia perennis occurs relatively low in the tidal frame but only in well-drained situations, as seedling establishment and long-term survival are intolerant of highly reducing surface sediments. It has a role in the early stages of salt-marsh succession, sometimes as the primary colonist on sandy substrates. In southern Europe, its invasion may be facilitated by the raised clonal tussocks of Spartina maritima, a primary colonist; subsequently, S. perennis dominates the tussocks and supports their rapid radial and upward growth by trapping silt. Pollen flow from the high marsh species Sarcocornia fruticosa may allow invasion by hybrids between the two species.



Hybridization between the diploid S. perennis and octaploid S. fruticosa in south-west Spain has been confirmed by analysis of random amplified DNA (RAPDs). This has also clarified the relationship between the two subspecies present there (the widely distributed ssp. perennis and the more upright, rigid Iberian endemic ssp. alpini (Lag.) Castroviejo).



Sarcocornia perennis maintains low water potentials and a positive carbon balance under highly saline conditions. Salinity treatment had no effect on the efficiency of Photosystem II (Fv/Fm). Total germination was also unaffected by salinity up to 2%, although above this it was progressively inhibited; the reduction in germination at seawater concentrations was mainly osmotically enforced dormancy, which would promote dispersal by tides and currents.

Journal of Ecology (2006)

doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2745.2006.01156.x
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Keywords: climatic limitation; conservation; ecophysiology; geographical and altitudinal distribution; germination; halophyte; herbivory; parasites and diseases; reproductive biology; salt-marsh succession

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 September 2006

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