The survival and establishment of salt marsh plant
species is mainly driven by abiotic parameters. These factors
can also significantly affect the outcome of competitive
interactions between plant species. In this study we identify
the effect of abiotic factors such as waves, currents, and
sediment properties on plant establishment and development
in the pioneer zone at Chongming Island, Yangtze estuary.
Different propagules (seedlings, rhizome fragments, complete
tussocks) of the species Spartina alterniflora and Scirpus
mariqueter were planted at sites differing in current velocity,
wave height, and sediment composition. Survival was
strongly size-dependent, with very few of the smallest stage
(seedlings) surviving. Survival of the native species S.
mariqueter was higher than that of the invasive species S.
alterniflora. Survival and lateral expansion rate of the
experimental plants was highest at the site with lowest tidal
currents, and lowest at a strongly wave-dominated site. We
suggest that competitive interactions between the species are
governed by plant-abiotic interactions influenced by both
plant morphology and growth rate. Further we discuss the
implications of these findings on the large-scale patterns of
vegetation at this salt marsh.