The phylogeography, biomass allocation and phenology of Salicornia tegetaria (S. Steffen, Mucina & G. Kadereit) Piirainen & G. Kadereit, an endemic salt marsh species in South Africa
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Salicornia tegetaria is an endemic salt marsh macrophyte that is widely distributed in estuaries along the South African coast. The aims of the study were to understand the phylogeography of the species, compare the biomass allocation in two regions and to determine phenological patterns of S. tegetaria between the warm and cool temperate biogeographical regions. The phylogeography of S. tegetaria was studied using the noncoding chloroplast DNA region rpS16 and nuclear rDNA ITS region. Five samples each were collected from eighteen estuaries stretching from Orange River in the Northern Cape to Mngazana Estuary in the Eastern Cape. Above- and belowground biomass was collected and physico-chemical conditions measured at Olifants, Berg and Langebaan Estuaries in the cool temperate, and Heuningnes, Nahoon and Kwelera Estuaries in the warm temperate biogeographical regions. The growth and flowering phenology of S. tegetaria in relation to environmental conditions was investigated in the cool temperate Langebaan Estuarine Embayment and compared to findings in the warm temperate, permanently open Kowie Estuary. The physico-chemical gradient found between the cool and warm temperate biogeographical regions may be useful to study climate change effects on plant species. The comparison of similar habitats in each region may provide insight into how different climate regimes may affect biomass allocation and phenology.