, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 859–872 | Cite as

Linking Improvement of Soil Structure to Soil Carbon Storage Following Invasion by a C4 Plant Spartina alterniflora

  • Yanghui He
  • Xuhui ZhouEmail author
  • Weisong Cheng
  • Lingyan Zhou
  • Guodong Zhang
  • Guiyao Zhou
  • Ruiqiang Liu
  • Junjiong Shao
  • Kai Zhu
  • Weixin Cheng


Coastal wetlands are increasingly recognized as important ecosystems for long-term carbon (C) storage. However, how soil aggregation mediates C accumulation and sequestration in these ecosystems remains unclear. Using the 13C isotope tracer from the invasion of a C4 plant, Spartina alterniflora, into the native ecosystem originally covered by C3 plants across Eastern Chinese coastal wetlands, we investigated a potential C stabilization process via soil structural protection. We quantified changes in soil aggregates, soil organic carbon (SOC), soil total nitrogen (STN), and natural 13C isotope abundance within aggregate fractions across a chronosequence of 0-, 4-, 8-, and 12-year S. alterniflora invasion. Our results showed that soil aggregate stability increased significantly along the chronosequence. Meanwhile, SOC and STN concentrations increased with invasion time in the whole soil and aggregate fractions, which were linked to increasing soil aggregate stability. The contribution of S. alterniflora-derived SOC increased from 18.96 to 40.24% in the 0–20 cm layer and from 4.66 to 32.04% in the 20–40 cm layer across the chronosequence from 4 to 12 years with the highest proportion observed in macro-aggregates. Our results indicate that invasion of S. alterniflora to coastal wetlands can sequester more C largely due to formation and stabilization of soil aggregates by soil structural protection.


coastal wetland Spartina alterniflora soil aggregates soil organic carbon soil total nitrogen stable carbon isotope 



This study was carried out at the Chongming Dongtan Nature Reserve, Shanghai. We acknowledge the practical help provided by Dan Wang, Qin Wang, and Haiqiang Guo. We thank Ming Li, Zhenggang Du, Yuanyuan Nie, and Xi Yang for assistance with field work. We would also like to thank anonymous reviewers for their critical comments/suggestions which improved the quality of the manuscript. This research was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 31770559, 31370489, and 31600352), the Program for Professor of Special Appointment (Eastern Scholar) at Shanghai Institutions of Higher Learning, and “Thousand Young Talents” Program in China.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 918 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yanghui He
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Xuhui Zhou
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  • Weisong Cheng
    • 1
  • Lingyan Zhou
    • 1
  • Guodong Zhang
    • 2
  • Guiyao Zhou
    • 1
  • Ruiqiang Liu
    • 1
  • Junjiong Shao
    • 1
  • Kai Zhu
    • 3
  • Weixin Cheng
    • 3
  1. 1.Center for Global Change and Ecological Forecasting, Shanghai Key Lab for Urban Ecological Processes and Eco-Restoration, School of Ecological and Environmental SciencesEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.Coastal Ecosystems Research Station of Yangtze River Estuary, Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Biodiversity Science and Ecological Engineering, The Institute of Biodiversity Science, School of Life SciencesFudan UniversityShanghaiChina
  3. 3.Environmental Studies DepartmentUniversity of CaliforniaSanta CruzUSA
  4. 4.Shanghai Institute of Pollution Control and Ecological SecurityShanghaiChina

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