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Effects of sediment slurry enrichment on salt marsh rehabilitation: Plant and soil responses over seven years

Abstract

In deltaic marshes, mineral sediment promotes positive elevation change and counters subsidence and sea level rise. In many such marshes sediment deficits result in wetland loss. One new way to address sediment deficiency is to supply marshes with sediments in a slurry that deposits the sediment in a thin layer over a large area. The long-term effects of this strategy are poorly understood. In a rapidly submerging,Spartina alterniflora salt marsh, we tested how different amounts of sediment ameliorated the effects of sea level rise and subsidence over 7 yr (1992–1998). Sediment slurry enrichment likely affected plants and soils by two mechanisms. It increased elevation and soil bulk density, leading to increased plant vigor and soil condition. These effects were long lasting, such that by 1998 areas receiving moderate amounts of sediment (5–12 cm relative elevation) had better plant vigor and soil condition compared to areas not receiving sediment (55% cover versus 20%; bulk densities of 0.4–1.0 g cm−3 versus 0.2 g cm−3; 0 mM hydrogen sulfide versus > 1.0 mM). The sediment slurry also had high nutrient content, which resulted in a pulse of growth, especially in areas receiving the most sediment (areas > 12 cm relative elevation initially had >90% cover and canopy heights >1.6 m). This nutrient-induced growth spurt was short lived and faded after 3 yr, at which point the long lasting effects of increased elevation probably became the dominant factor promoting plant vigor and soil condition. Moderate levels of sediment generated the most beneficial and long lasting effects to the vegetation and soils. This degree of sediment slurry addition countered the effects of subsidence and sea level rise, but not so much as to surpass the intertidal position to whichS. alterniflora is best adapted.

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Correspondence to Irving A. Mendelssohn.

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Slocum, M.G., Mendelssohn, I.A. & Kuhn, N.L. Effects of sediment slurry enrichment on salt marsh rehabilitation: Plant and soil responses over seven years. Estuaries 28, 519–528 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02696063

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Keywords

  • Salt Marsh
  • Hydrogen Sulfide
  • Percent Cover
  • Canopy Height
  • Deposition Zone