Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



JGR Biogeosciences





First Page



The resilience of salt marshes to sea level rise depends on vertical accretion through belowground biomass production and sediment deposition to maintain elevation above sea level. Increased nitrogen (N) availability from anthropogenic sources may stimulate aboveground biomass production and sediment deposition and, thus, accretion; however, increased N may also negatively impact marsh accretion by decreasing belowground biomass and increasing net CO2 emissions. A study was conducted in Spartina alterniflora‐dominated salt marshes in North Carolina, USA, to determine how responses to fertilization vary across locations with different physical and chemical characteristics. Pore water residence time, inundation time, and proximity to tidal creeks drove spatial differences in pore water sulfide, ammonium, and dissolved carbon concentrations. Although annual respiration and gross primary production were greater at the creek edge than interior marsh sites, net ecosystem CO2 exchange (NEE) was nearly balanced at all the sites. Fertilization decreased belowground biomass in the interior sites but not on the creek edge. Aboveground biomass, respiration, gross primary production, and net CO2 emissions increased in response to fertilization, but responses were diminished in interior marsh locations with high pore water sulfide. Hourly NEE measured by chambers were similar to hourly NEE observed by a nearby eddy covariance tower, but correcting for inundation depth relative to plant height was critical for accurate extrapolation to annual fluxes. The impact of fertilization on biomass and NEE, and thus marsh resilience, varied across marsh locations depending upon location‐specific pore water sulfide concentrations.


doi: 10.1029/2019JG005238

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