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Salt Marsh Aboveground Production in New England Estuaries in Relation to Nitrogen Loading and Environmental Factors

Abstract

Aboveground production responses of Spartina alterniflora and S. patens in estuaries in Massachusetts, USA were assessed in relation to temporal (date) and physical (elevation and distance from creek edge) factors as well as nitrogen loading using stem δ15N, water column dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN), and upland nitrogen loading as nitrogen input proxies. All nitrogen input proxies had negative relationships with S. alterniflora stem density while stem height and biomass increased or were unaffected. Nitrogen content of S. alterniflora increased with stem δ15N but was not related to DIN or upland nitrogen loading proxies. For S. patens, stem density, biomass, and height all increased with stem δ15N while nitrogen content decreased. Stem density and biomass also varied with elevation. For S. alterniflora, this relationship was parabolic for stem density and declined linearly for biomass. Both stem density and biomass increased linearly for S. patens. Across the growing season, S. alterniflora stem density decreased, S. patens biomass increased, and nitrogen content declined for both Spartina species. S. alterniflora stem height also decreased with distance from the creek edge. Results show different responses for Spartina species to upland and water column nitrogen inputs and provide complementary information to results from controlled fertilization experiments.

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Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Amanda Davis for leading field sampling and laboratory processing for samples used in this analysis. Additional field support was provided by Charles Markos, Holly Williams, Alina Arnheim, Drew Collins, David Behringer, Christian Petitpas, Tay Evans, Katelyn Ostrikis, Jillian Carr, Kathryn Ford, and Wesley Dukes. Vincent Manfredi provided equipment for grass measurements. Tara Rajaniemi provided lab facilities for sample preparation. Brad Hubeny and the staff at the Salem State Viking Environmental Stable Isotope Lab performed isotope and elemental analyses. Craig Tobias and three anonymous reviewers provided helpful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. This work was funded by a grant from the Massachusetts Bays National Estuary Program (MassBays).

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Logan, J.M. Salt Marsh Aboveground Production in New England Estuaries in Relation to Nitrogen Loading and Environmental Factors. Wetlands 38, 1327–1340 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-018-1056-z

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Keywords

  • Eutrophication
  • δ15N
  • Spartina
  • Stem biomass
  • Stem density