Marine Biology

, Volume 151, Issue 2, pp 413–423 | Cite as

Root respiration and oxygen flux in salt marsh grasses from different elevational zones

  • Brian R. MaricleEmail author
  • Raymond W. Lee
Research Article


Plants growing in waterlogged environments are subjected to low oxygen levels around submerged tissues. While internal oxygen transport has been postulated as an important factor governing flooding tolerance, respiration rates and abilities to take up oxygen under hypoxic conditions have been largely ignored in plant studies. In this study, physiological characteristics related to internal oxygen transport, respiration, and oxygen affinity were studied in low intertidal marsh species (Spartina alterniflora and S. anglica) and middle to high intertidal species (S. densiflora, S. patens, S. foliosa, a S. alterniflora × S. foliosa hybrid, S. spartinae, and Distichlis spicata). These marsh plants were compared to the inland species S. pectinata and the crop species rice (Oryza sativa), corn (Zea mays), and oat (Avena sativa). Plants were grown in a greenhouse under simulated estuarine conditions. The low marsh species S. anglica was found to transport oxygen internally at rates up to 2.2 μmol O2 g fresh root weight−1 h−1. In contrast, marsh species from higher zones and crop species were found to transport significantly less oxygen internally, although rice plants were able to transport 1.4 μmol g−1 h−1. Under hypoxic conditions, low marsh species were better able to remove dissolved oxygen from the medium compared to higher marsh species and crops. The oxygen concentration at which respiration rates declined due to limited oxygen (Pcrit) was significantly lower in low marsh species compared to inland and crop species; Pcrit ranged from <4 μM O2 in the low marsh species S. anglica up to 20 μM in the inland species corn. Flooding-sensitive crop species had significantly higher aerobic respiration rates compared to flooding-tolerant species in this study. Crop species took up 3.6–6.7 μmol O2 g−1 h−1 while all but one marsh species took up <3.5 μmol O2 g−1 h−1. We conclude that oxygen transport, aerobic demand, and oxygen affinity all play important and interrelated roles in flood tolerance and salt marsh zonation.


Oxygen Transport Oxygen Consumption Rate Root Surface Area Oxygen Affinity Fresh Root Weight 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors thank Paul Rabie for help with statistics; and Kim Patten, Sally Hacker, Eric Hellquist, M. Enrique Figueroa, Steve Pennings, Chuck Cody, Maurice Ku, Renae Micek, Heather Davis, and Debra Ayres for providing plants. This project was partially funded from the Betty W. Higinbotham Trust and the Biddulph Summer Research Award to BRM. This research was also supported by NSF IBN0076604 and EPA R−82940601. All experiments complied with U.S. laws.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesFort Hays State UniversityHaysUSA

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