Decomposition is a key function in reclaimed wetlands, and changes in its rate have ramifications for organic-matter accumulation, nutrient cycling, and production. The purpose of this study was to compare leaf litter decomposition rates in coal-slurry ponds vs. natural wetlands on natural floodplain wetlands in Illinois, USA. The rate of decomposition was slower in the natural wetland vs. the coal pond (k=0.0043??0.0008 vs. 0.0066??0.0011, respectively); the soil of the natural wetland was more acidic than the coal pond in this study (pH=5.3 vs. 7.9, respectively). Similarly, higher organic matter levels were related to lower pH levels, and organic matter levels were seven-times higher in the natural wetland than in the coal pond. The coal slurry pond was five years old at the time of the study, while the natural oxbow wetland was older (more than 550 years). The coal-slurry pond was originally a floodplain wetland (slough); the downstream end was blocked with a stoplog structure and the oxbow filled with slurry. The pattern of decomposition for all species in the coal pond was the same as in the natural pond; Potomogeton nodosus decomposed more quickly than Phragmites australis, and both of these species decomposed more quickly than either Typha latifolia or Cyperus erythrorhizos (k=0.0121??0.0008, 0.0051??0.0006, 0.0024??0.0001, 0-0024??0.0004, respectively). Depending on how open or closed the system is to outside inputs, decomposition rate regulates other functions such as production, nutrient cycling, organic-layer accumulation in the soil, and the timing and nature of delivery of detritus to the food chain. ?? 2004 John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.
Additional publication details
Comparison of litter decomposition in a natural versus coal-slurry pond reclaimed as a wetland