Tidal freshwater wetlands are sensitive to sea level rise and increased salinity, although little information is known about the impact of salinification on nutrient biogeochemistry in tidal freshwater forested wetlands. We quantified soil nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) mineralization using seasonal in situ incubations of modified resin cores along spatial gradients of chronic salinification (from continuously freshwater tidal forest to salt impacted tidal forest to oligohaline marsh) and in hummocks and hollows of the continuously freshwater tidal forest along the blackwater Waccamaw River and alluvial Savannah River. Salinification increased rates of net N and P mineralization fluxes and turnover in tidal freshwater forested wetland soils, most likely through tree stress and senescence (for N) and conversion to oligohaline marsh (for P). Stimulation of N and P mineralization by chronic salinification was apparently unrelated to inputs of sulfate (for N and P) or direct effects of increased soil conductivity (for N). In addition, the tidal wetland soils of the alluvial river mineralized more P relative to N than the blackwater river. Finally, hummocks had much greater nitrification fluxes than hollows at the continuously freshwater tidal forested wetland sites. These findings add to knowledge of the responses of tidal freshwater ecosystems to sea level rise and salinification that is necessary to predict the consequences of state changes in coastal ecosystem structure and function due to global change, including potential impacts on estuarine eutrophication.
Additional publication details
The effect of increasing salinity and forest mortality on soil nitrogen and phosphorus mineralization in tidal freshwater forested wetlands