The current expansion of Phragmites australis into the high marsh shortgrass (Spartina patens, Distichlis spicata) communities of eastern U.S. salt marshes provided an opportunity to identify the influence of vegetation types on pools and fluxes of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN). Two brackish tidal marshes of the National Estuarine Research Reserve system were examined, Piermont Marsh of the Hudson River NERR in New York and Hog Island in the Jacques Coustaeu NERR of New Jersey. Pools of DIN in porewater and rates of DIN surface flux were compared in replicated pairs of recently-expanded P. australis and neighboring S. patens-dominated patches on the high marsh surface. Both marshes generally imported nitrate (NO3-) and exported ammonium (NH4+), such that overall DIN was exported. No differences in surface exchange of NO3- or NH4+ were observed between vegetation types. Depth-averaged porewater NH4+ concentrations over the entire growing season were 56% lower under P. australis than under S. patens (average 1.4 vs. 3.2 mg NH4+ L-1) with the most profound differences in November. Porewater profiles showed an accumulation of NH4+ at depth in S. patens and constant low concentrations in P. australis from the soil surface to 50 cm depth, with no significant differences in porewater salinity. Despite these profound differences in porewater, NH 4+ diffusion from soils of P. australis and S. patens were not measurably different, were similar to other published rates, and were well below estimated rates based on passive diffusion alone. Rapid adsorption and uptake by litter and microbes in surface soils of both communities may buffer NH4+ loss to flooding tides in both communities, thereby reducing the impact of P. australis invasion on NH4+ flux to flooding waters. ?? Springer 2005.
Additional publication details
Dissolved inorganic nitrogen pools and surface flux under different brackish marsh vegetation types, common reed (Phragmites australis) and salt hay (Spartina patens)