, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 979–987 | Cite as

Differential nitrogen and phosphorus retention by five wetland plant species

  • Jenny T. Kao
  • John E. Titus
  • Wei-Xing Zhu


Riparian wetlands have a demonstrated ability to filter and control nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) movement into streams and other bodies of water; few studies, however, have examined the roles that individual plant species serve in sequestering N and P pollutants. We evaluated the potential for growth and consequent N and P accumulation by five species of wetland perennials. We planted blocks consisting of 900-cm2 plots of each species at 11 sites within a riparian wetland that receives large inputs of agricultural runoff. Plant shoots and roots were collected at the time of peak standing crop to determine net accumulation of biomass, N, and P for one growing season. A portion of the plant shoots was placed in decomposition litterbags in the field to determine biomass, N, and P losses for 60, 120, and 150 days. Of the five species, but reed (Sparganium americanum) had the greatest aboveground accumulation of N and P but had the lowest belowground accumulation values. In contrast, woolgrass (Scirpus cyperinus) had the lowest aboveground values for N and P accumulation but had the highest belowground value for P. Soft rush (Juncus effusus) and reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea) showed high values for both aboveground and belowground N and P accumulation, while blue joint grass (Calamagrostis canadensis) showed low values for aboveground N and P. The five species also showed wide variations in the retention of N and P in decomposing shoots.Juncus effusus had the highest percentages of N and P remaining in litter after five months (87% N and 69% P), whileP. arundinacea retained only 28% N and 18% P.Sparganium americanum had high retention rate for N in litter (74% N) but showed low P retention values (35%).Scirpus cyperinus andC. canadensis also showed high retention rates of litter N but lower values for P retention. Our study suggests that species show differential accumulation and release of N and P and may influence the overall potential of a wetland to retain agricultural nutrients.

Key Words

nitrogen phosphorus wetland perennials retention eutrophication non-point source pollution water quality reed canary grass Phalaris arundinacea Juncus effusus Sparganium americanum Scirpus cyperinus Calamagrostis canadensis 


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Copyright information

© Society of Wetland Scientists 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jenny T. Kao
    • 1
  • John E. Titus
    • 1
  • Wei-Xing Zhu
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesState University of New York at BinghamtonBinghamtonUSA

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