Investigating Plant Phenotype, Salinity, and Infestation by the Roseau Cane Scale as Factors in the Die-Back of Phragmites australis in the Mississippi River Delta, USA

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© 2020, Society of Wetland Scientists. Die-back of Phragmites australis in the Mississippi River Delta (MRD), Louisiana, USA, is associated with large populations of nonnative Roseau Cane Scale (RCS), Nipponaclerda biwakoensis. Initial observations suggested different P. australis phenotypes displayed different susceptibilities to scale infestation and die-back, but the role of scale infestation on die-back was unknown. To understand the effect of RCS on P. australis, paired stands of Delta and European phenotypes in the MRD were monitored for stem heights, densities, and scale infestation over two years. A mesocosm experiment was conducted to assess whether RCS abundance and P. australis growth were dependent on water salinity and phenotype. Three Phragmites australis phenotypes were grown in small pools under fresh or mesohaline conditions, and RCS infestated or non-infested treatments. Scale densities were up to 7 times greater on the Delta compared to the European phenotype. Scale infestation resulted in 22%–39% reductions in the proportion of stems with green leaf tissue for all phenotypes, and 12% reduction in stem heights for Delta-type. Salinity was detrimental to all phenotypes, reducing stem heights by 20% compared to freshwater. Our results provide evidence that the RCS can result in die-back symptoms similar to what is observed in the MRD.

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