Reductions in sediment delivery to coastal marshes increase their vulnerability to relative sea-level rise. Sediment pulses from storm events and commercial dredge-spray operations (e.g., beneficial use) represent increasingly important sediment sources to otherwise sediment-deprived marshes. These sediments can stimulate plant growth by providing nutrient and elevation subsidies, with plant growth predicted to peak at intermediate sediment depths. Most sediment subsidy studies have compared plant responses among discrete sediment depths applied across a uniform marsh platform, and often assessed impacts in the years following sediment deposition. Less is known about the immediate effects of sediment additions on plant growth or the mechanisms driving differences in these responses along a sediment-addition gradient. To investigate immediate plant responses to sediment additions (i.e., within 6 months), we added sediment to Schoenoplectus americanus-dominated brackish marsh sods in a greenhouse setting. Sediment was added incrementally along a sediment addition gradient (0–20 cm) to 18 sods, which were placed in clear planting enclosures to permit monitoring of above- and below-ground responses and hydro-edaphic properties. Shoot production, which increased linearly along the sediment addition gradient, was the first observable response to sediment addition and was likely a result of apical dominance interruption. This trend continued throughout the study even as survival of those shoots declined with increasing sediment depth. At the end of the experiment, however, shoot biomass production was biphasic, responding favorably to sediment addition up to intermediate depths before collapsing at higher depths. While fine root production in sods was maximal at intermediate sediment addition levels, root production in new sediment layers was limited. There were limited differences observed for hydro-edaphic properties along the sediment addition gradient. Thus, plant resources are allocated to shoot production immediately following sediment addition at the expense of root colonization of new sediment layers, suggesting that, in certain conditions, sediment deposition can represent a stress rather than a subsidy.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Patterns of resource allocation in a coastal marsh plant (Schoenoplectus americanus) along a sediment-addition gradient|
|Series title||Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science|
|Contributing office(s)||Wetland and Aquatic Research Center|
|Other Geospatial||Pearl River Wildlife Management Area|