Effects of shoot stiffness, shoot size and current velocity on scouring sediment from around seedlings and propagules

T. J. Bouma, M. Friedrichs, P. Klaassen, B. K. Van Wesenbeeck, F. G. Brun, S. Temmerman, M. M. Van Katwijk, G. Graf, P. M.J. Herman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

72 Citations (Scopus)


Successful management and restoration of coastal vegetation requires a quantitative process-based understanding of thresholds hampering (re-)establishment of pioneer vegetation. We expected scouring to be important in explaining the disappearance of seedlings and/or small propagules of intertidal plant species, and therefore quantified the dependence of scouring on plant traits (flexibility, size) and physical forcing by current velocity. Flume studies with unidirectional flow revealed that scouring around seedlings increased exponentially with current velocity and according to a power relationship with plant size. Basal stem diameter rather than shoot length controlled scouring volume. Flexible shoots caused far less scouring than stiff shoots, provided that the bending occurred near the sediment surface as was the case for Zostera, and not on top of a solid tussock base as we observed for Puccinellia. Therefore, shoot stiffness is likely to strongly affect the chances for initial establishment in hydrodynamically exposed areas. Plant traits such as shoot stiffness are subject to a trade-off between advantages and disadvantages, the outcome of which depends on the physical settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-297
Number of pages5
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Current velocity
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Salt marsh
  • Seagrass
  • Seedling survival
  • Spartina anglica
  • Trade-offs
  • Zostera noltii


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