Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Annual nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon budgets for two Virginia salt marshes were determined by monthly measurements of water discharge and constituent concentrations over tidal cycles.

Considering all three forms of phosphorus measured (total, dissolved organic and orthophosphate) there was a net loss from the estuary to the marshes. The data reveal a loss of particulate μhosphorus of estuarine origin to marsh sediments and mineralization of this phosphorus in the marshes with subsequent export of dissolved inorganic and organic phosphorus back to the estuary.

Nitrogen flux data show a loss of nitrate and nitrite to the marshes. Particulate nitrogen is imported to the marshes where it is mineralized and returned to the estuary as ammonia and dissolved organic nitrogen. The magnitude of nitrogen export suggests significant fixation of atmospheric nitrogen by marsh flora with subsequent export as dissolved species.

Carbon flux data show significant contributions of both particulate and dissolved organic carbon to the estuary from the marshes. Estimates of export, based on marsh grass productivity, suggest a loss of 36 and 49% of a years primary production on the marshes as detritus for Ware and Carter Creeks respectively.



Estuarine ecology -- Virginia, Salt marsh ecology -- Virginia



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