Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 326–334

Below- and Aboveground Biomass of Spartina alterniflora: Response to Nutrient Addition in a Louisiana Salt Marsh



The responses of Spartina alterniflora above- and belowground biomass to various combinations of N, P, and Fe were documented in a 1-year field experiment in a Louisiana salt marsh. Five levels of N additions to 0.25 m2 plots resulted in 18% to 138% more live aboveground biomass compared to the control plots and higher stem densities, but had no effect on the amount of live belowground biomass (roots and rhizomes; R&R). There was no change in the aboveground biomass when P or Fe was added as part of a factorial experiment of +P, +N, and +Fe additions, but there was a 40% to 60% decrease in the live belowground biomass, which reduced the average R&R:S ratio by 50%. The addition of various combinations of nutrients had a significant affect on the belowground biomass indicating that the addition of P, not N, eased the need for root foraging activity. The end-of-the-growing-season N:P molar ratios in the live above- and belowground tissues of the control plot was 16.4 and 32.7, respectively. The relative size of the belowground standing stocks of N and P was higher than in the aboveground live tissues, but shifted downwards to about half that in fertilized plots. We conclude that the aboveground biomass was directly related to N availability, but not P, and that the accumulation of belowground biomass was not limited by N. We suggest that the reduction in belowground biomass with increased P availability, and the lower absolute and relative belowground standing stocks of P as plant tissue N:P ratios increased, is related to competition with soil microbes for P. One implication for wetland management and restoration is that eutrophication may be detrimental to long-term salt marsh maintenance and development, especially in organic-rich wetland soils.


Belowground production Salt marsh Louisiana Nutrients Eutrophication P limitation 


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Oceanography and Coastal SciencesLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  2. 2.Coastal Ecology InstituteLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA

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