, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 927-935

Effects of Phragmites australis (common reed) invasion on aboveground biomass and soil properties in brackish tidal marsh of the Mullica river, New Jersey

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Abstract

Phragmites australis (common reed) has been increasing in brackish tidal wetlands of the eastern United States coast over the last century. Whereas several researchers have documented changes in community structure, this research explores the effects of Phragmites expansion on aboveground biomass and soil properties. We used historical aerial photography and a global positioning system (GPS) to identify and age Phragmites patches within a high marsh dominated by shortgrasses (Spartina patens and Distichlis spicata). Plots along transects were established within the vegetation types to represent a gradient of species dominance and a variety of ages of the Phragmites plots. In comparison to neighboring shortgrass communities, Phragmites communities were found to have nearly 10 times the live aboveground biomass. They also had lower soil salinity at the surface, a lower water level, less pronounced microtopographic relief, and higher redox potentials. These soil factors were correlated with the age and biomass of Phragmites communities, were increasingly different with increasing Phragmites dominance along the transects, and were increasingly altered by the ages of Phragmites communities until the factors stabilized in plots of 8 yr to 15 yr of age. We propose that Phragmites expansion plays an important role in altering these soil properties and suggest a variety of mechanisms to explain these alterations.