, Volume 97, Issue 4, pp 431–438 | Cite as

Oxygen loss from Spartina alterniflora and its relationship to salt marsh oxygen balance

  • B. L. Howes
  • J. M. Teal
Original Paper


Spartina alterniflora has been reported to lose significant amounts of oxygen to its rhizosphere with potentially important effects on salt-marsh biogeochemical cycling and plant productivity. The potential significance of this oxidative pathway was evaluated using laboratory split-chamber experiments to quantify oxygen loss from intact root systems under a wide variety of pre-treatment and incubation conditions including antibiotics to inhibit microbial respiration. The aerenchyma system of S. alterniflora was found to transport O2, N2, Ar, and CH4 from above-ground sources to its below-ground roots and rhizomes. While non-respiratory gases were observed to move from the lacunae to water bathing the root systems, net O2 loss did not occur; instead oxygen present outside of the roots/rhizomes was consumed. Net oxygen loss was found when resistance to gas transport was reduced in the lacunae-rhizosphere pathway by placing the root systems in a gas phase and when plant respiration was significantly reduced. Root system respiration appeared to be the major variable in the plant oxygen balance. When root and rhizome respiration was inhibited using poisons or lowered by cooling, the oxygen deficit was greatly reduced and oxygen loss was indicated. The effect of seasonal temperature changes on root system “oxygen deficit” presents a possible explanation as to why Spartina produces root systems with respiration rates that cannot be supported by gas transport. Overall, while oxygen loss from individual plant roots is likely, integrating measured root system oxygen loss with geochemical data indicates that the mass amount of oxygen lost from S. alterniflora root systems is small compared to the total oxygen balance of vegetated salt marsh sediments.

Key words

Gas transport Salt marsh Spartina alterniflora Rhizosphere 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. L. Howes
    • 1
  • J. M. Teal
    • 1
  1. 1.Biology DepartmentWoods Hole Oceanographic InstitutionWoods HoleUSA

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