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In Louisiana, plant production rates and associated decomposition rates may be important in offsetting high rates of land loss and subsidence in organic marsh soils. Decomposition of Spartina patens shoot and leaf material was studied by using litter bags in mesohaline marshes in the Barataria and Terrebonne basins of coastal Louisiana. Spartina patens decomposed very slowly with an average decay constant of 0.0007, and approximately 50% of the material remained after 2 years in the field. Material at the Barataria site decomposed faster than did Terrebonne material with trend differences apparent during the first 150 days. This difference might be explained by the higher content of phosphorus in the Barataria material or a flooding period experienced by the Barataria bags during their first 10 days of deployment. Nitrogen and carbon content of the plant material studied did not differ between the two basins. We detected no consistent significant differences in decomposition above, at, or below sediment/water level. Because S. patens is the dominant plant in these marshes, and because it is so slow to decompose, we believe that S. patens shoots are an important addition to vertical accretion and, therefore, marsh elevation.
Additional Publication Details
Decomposition of saltmeadow cordgrass (Spartina patens) in Louisiana coastal marshes