Aboveground and belowground productivity ofSpartina alterniflora (Smooth Cordgrass) in natural and created Louisiana salt marshes
- Cite this article as:
- Edwards, K.R. & Mills, K.P. Estuaries (2005) 28: 252. doi:10.1007/BF02732859
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In Louisiana, salt marshes are being created in an effort to offset the large loss of such habitat that has occurred over the last 50 yr. Primary productivity is an important function and indicator of success for salt marsh creation and restoration projects. The aim of this study was to determine whether the aboveground and belowground productivity of the dominant salt marsh grassSpartina alterniflora in created marshes in southwest Louisiana began to approximate productivity levels in natural marshes, over time. Net annual aboveground primary productivity (NAPP) was measured by a harvest technique, while the ingrowth core method was used to estimate net annual belowground primary productivity (NBPP). NAPP levels were similar to those found in other, Louisiana salt marshes, while NBPP levels were similar to or higher than the reported range forS. alterniflora studied along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts. NAPP tended to decrease as the created marshes aged, but the levels in the oldest, 19 year old, created marsh were still well above values measured in the, natural marshes. It was estimated that it would take 35 yr after marsh creation for NAPP in the created marshes to become equivalent to that in natural marshes. NBPP in the created marshes became equivalent to levels found in the natural marshes after 6–8 yr, but then belowground production increased with marsh age, reaching an asymptote that surpassed natural marsh levels. Equivalency in primary productivity has not been reached in these marshes. Elevation also affected productivity, as higher elevational sites with greater topographic heterogeneity had significantly lower aboveground and belowground biomass levels than those with elevations closer to mean sea level. This underscores the need to construct marshes so that their mean elevation and degree of topographic heterogeneity are similar to natural marshes.