, Volume 10, Issue 8, pp 1351-1361
Date: 13 Nov 2007

Invasion of Spartina alterniflora Enhanced Ecosystem Carbon and Nitrogen Stocks in the Yangtze Estuary, China

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Whether plant invasion increases ecosystem carbon (C) stocks is controversial largely due to the lack of knowledge about differences in ecophysiological properties between invasive and native species. We conducted a field experiment in which we measured ecophysiological properties to explore the response of the ecosystem C stocks to the invasion of Spartina alterniflora (Spartina) in wetlands dominated by native Scirpus mariqueter (Scirpus) and Phragmites australis (Phragmites) in the Yangtze Estuary, China. We measured growing season length, leaf area index (LAI), net photosynthetic rate (Pn), root biomass, net primary production (NPP), litter quality and litter decomposition, plant and soil C and nitrogen (N) stocks in ecosystems dominated by the three species. Our results showed that Spartina had a longer growing season, higher LAI, higher Pn, and greater root biomass than Scirpus and Phragmites. Net primary production (NPP) was 2.16 kg C m−2 y−1 in Spartina ecosystems, which was, on average, 1.44 and 0.47 kg C m−2 y−1 greater than that in Scirpus and Phragmites ecosystems, respectively. The litter decomposition rate, particularly the belowground decomposition rate, was lower for Spartina than Scirpus and Phragmites due to the lower litter quality of Spartina. The ecosystem C stock (20.94 kg m−2) for Spartina was greater than that for Scirpus (17.07 kg m−2), Phragmites (19.51 kg m−2) and the mudflats (15.12 kg m−2). Additionally, Spartina ecosystems had a significantly greater N stock (698.8 g m−2) than Scirpus (597.1 g m−2), Phragmites ecosystems (578.2 g m−2) and the mudflats (375.1 g m−2). Our results suggest that Spartina invasion altered ecophysiological processes, resulted in changes in NPP and litter decomposition, and ultimately led to enhanced ecosystem C and N stocks in the invaded ecosystems in comparison to the ecosystems with native species.