Plant nitrogen dynamics in fertilized and natural New England salt marshes : a paired 15N tracer study
Drake, Deanne C.
Peterson, Bruce J.
Deegan, Linda A.
Harris, L. A.
Miller, E. E.
Warren, R. Scott
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KeywordSpartina alterniflora; Spartina patens; Plant ecophysiology; Eutrophication; Nitrogen isotopes; Nitrogen cycling; Marsh ecosystem
We examined the effects of increased nutrient availability on nitrogen (N) dynamics in dominant New England salt marsh plants (tall and stunted Spartina alterniflora and S. patens) using paired large-scale nutrient and 15NO3– tracer additions. This study is one component of a long-term, large-scale, salt marsh nutrient and trophic manipulation study (the Trophic Cascades and Interacting Control Processes in a Detritus-based Aquatic Ecosystem [TIDE] Project). We compared physiological variables of plants in fertilized (~17× ambient N and P in incoming tidal water) and reference marsh systems to quantify NO3– uptake and uptake efficiency, allocation of N to tissues, end-of-season N resorption, leaf litter quality and other potential responses to increased nutrient availability. Reference system plants sequestered ~24.5 g NO3-N ha–1 d–1 in aboveground pools during mid-summer, while fertilized plants sequestered ~140 g NO3-N ha–1 d–1. However, NO3– uptake efficiency (% of total incoming NO3-N sequestered aboveground) was higher in the reference system (16.8%) than in the fertilized system (2.6%), suggesting that our fertilization rate (~70 µM NO3– in incoming water) approaches or exceeds the uptake saturation point for this vegetation community. Leaf litter quality was clearly affected by N availability; N resorption efficiency was lower in all plants of the fertilized system; senesced leaves from the fertilized creek contained ~43% (tall S. alterniflora), 23% (stunted S. alterniflora) and 15% (S. patens) more N per unit biomass than reference creek leaves.
Author Posting. © Inter-Research, 2008. This article is posted here by permission of Inter-Research for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Marine Ecology Progress Series 354 (2008): 35-46, doi:10.3354/meps07170.
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