Increased sediment accretion rates following invasion byPhragmites australis: The role of litter
- Cite this article as:
- Rooth, J.E., Stevenson, J.C. & Cornwell, J.C. Estuaries (2003) 26: 475. doi:10.1007/BF02823724
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Negative connotations of invasive plants worldwide have implicated them as the bearers of unfavorable ecosystem change. We contrasted 5-yr-old and 20-yr-oldPhragmites populations with pre-invasion areas occupied byTypha spp. andPanicum virgatum in an oligohaline tidal marsh of Chesapeake Bay. Peak live biomass was 3 times greater, while standing dead and litter was twice as great in the 20-yr-oldPhragmites. It is this abundance of concentrated litter on the marsh surface of maturePhragmites populations that we implicate as encouraging the trapping of organic and mineral matter. The rate of vertical accretion in 20-yr-oldPhragmites populations is 3–4 mm yr−1 above the adjacent populations. By integrating the constant initial concentration and constant rate of supply models on individual210Pb cores, we estimate thatPhragmites populations require a minimum of 7-yr post-colonization to enhance rates of accretion in this system. In ligh of the considerable loss of marsh habitat from relative sea-level rise, this finding contests the view that invasion creates strictly undesirable change at the ecosystem level.