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Identifying the Salinity Thresholds that Impact Greenhouse Gas Production in Subtropical Tidal Freshwater Marsh Soils

Abstract

Increasing salinity due to sea level rise is an important factor influencing biogeochemical processes in estuarine wetlands, with the potential to impact greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, there is little consensus regarding what salinity thresholds will significantly alter the production of GHGs or the physiochemical properties of wetland soils. This study used a fine-scale salinity gradient to determine the impact of seawater concentration on the potential production of CH4, CO2 and N2O and associated soil properties using bottle incubations of tidal freshwater marsh soils from the Min River estuary, SE China. Potential CH4 production was unaffected by salinities from 0 to 7.5‰, but declined significantly at 10‰ and above. Potential CO2 production was stimulated at intermediate salinities (5 to 7.5‰), but inhibited by salinities ≥15‰, while potential N2O production was unaffected by salinity. In contrast, soil dissolved organic carbon and NH4 +-N generally increased with salinity. Overall, this research indicates salinities of ~10–15‰ represent an important tipping point for biogeochemical processes in wetlands. Above this threshold, carbon mineralization is reduced and may promote vertical soil accretion in brackish and salinity wetlands. Meanwhile, low-level saltwater intrusion may leave wetlands vulnerable to submergence due to accelerated soil organic carbon loss.

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Acknowledgements

This work was financially supported by the National Science Foundation of China (Grant No: 41371127), the Key Sciences and Technology Project of Fujian Province (2014R1034-1), and the Program for Innovative Research Team at Fujian Normal University (IRTL1205). We thank Weiqi Wang, Jiafang Huang, Xuming Wang, Hongchang Ren, Qinyang Ji, Jingyu Zhang, Shaoyan Zheng, Weining Du for their assistance.

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Correspondence to Lisa G. Chambers or Xingtu Liu.

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Wang, C., Tong, C., Chambers, L.G. et al. Identifying the Salinity Thresholds that Impact Greenhouse Gas Production in Subtropical Tidal Freshwater Marsh Soils. Wetlands 37, 559–571 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-017-0890-8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-017-0890-8

Keywords

  • Sea level rise
  • Seawater intrusion
  • Salinity
  • Methanogenesis
  • Soil carbon
  • Tidal freshwater marsh