, Volume 69, Issue 2, pp 175–206 | Cite as

Sediment nutrient accumulation and nutrient availability in two tidal freshwater marshes along the Mattaponi River, Virginia, USA

  • Jennifer L. MorseEmail author
  • J. Patrick Megonigal
  • Mark R. Walbridge


Sediment deposition is the main mechanism of nutrient delivery to tidal freshwater marshes (TFMs). We quantified sediment nutrient accumulation in TFMs upstream and downstream of a proposed water withdrawal project on the Mattaponi River, Virginia. Our goal was to assess nutrient availability by comparing relative rates of carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P) accumulated in sediments with the C, N, and P stoichiometries of surface soils and above ground plant tissues. Surface soil nutrient contents (0.60–0.92% N and 0.09–0.13% P) were low but within reported ranges for TFMs in the eastern US. In both marshes, soil nutrient pools and C, N, and P stoichiometries were closely associated with sedimentation patterns. Differences between marshes were more striking than spatial variations within marshes: both C, N, and P accumulation during summer, and annual P accumulation rates (0.16 and 0.04 g P m−2 year−1, respectively) in sediments were significantly higher at the downstream than at the upstream marsh. Nitrogen:P ratios <14 in above ground biomass, surface soils, and sediments suggest that N limits primary production in these marshes, but experimental additions of N and/or P did not significantly increase above ground productivity in either marsh. Lower soil N:P ratios are consistent with higher rates of sediment P accumulation at the downstream site, perhaps due to its greater proximity to the estuarine turbidity maximum.

Nitrogen Nutrient limitation Phosphorus Sediment Tidal freshwater marsh 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennifer L. Morse
    • 1
    Email author
  • J. Patrick Megonigal
    • 2
  • Mark R. Walbridge
    • 3
  1. 1.Environmental Science and Policy DepartmentGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA
  2. 2.Smithsonian Environmental Research CenterEdgewaterUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyWest Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA

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