Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Litter pool sizes, decomposition, and nitrogen dynamics in Spartina alterniflora-invaded and native coastal marshlands of the Yangtze Estuary

  • 659 Accesses

  • 63 Citations

Abstract

Past studies have focused primarily on the effects of invasive plants on litter decomposition at soil surfaces. In natural ecosystems, however, considerable amounts of litter may be at aerial and belowground positions. This study was designed to examine the effects of Spartina alterniflora invasion on the pool sizes and decomposition of aerial, surficial, and belowground litter in coastal marshlands, the Yangtze Estuary, which were originally occupied by two native species, Scirpus mariqueter and Phragmites australis. We collected aerial and surficial litter of the three species once a month and belowground litter once every 2 months. We used the litterbag method to quantify litter decomposition at the aerial, surficial and belowground positions for the three species. Yearly averaged litter mass in the Spartina stands was 1.99 kg m−2; this was 250 and 22.8% higher than that in the Scirpus (0.57 kg m−2) and Phragmites (1.62 kg m−2) stands, respectively. The litter in the Spartina stands was primarily distributed in the air (45%) and belowground (48%), while Scirpus and Phragmites litter was mainly allocated to belowground positions (85 and 59%, respectively). The averaged decomposition rates of aerial, surficial, and belowground litter were 0.82, 1.83, and 1.27 year−1 for Spartina, respectively; these were 52, 62 and 69% of those for Scirpus litter at corresponding positions and 158, 144 and 78% of those for Phragmites litter, respectively. The differences in decomposition rates between Spartina and the two native species were largely due to differences in litter quality among the three species, particularly for the belowground litter. The absolute amount of nitrogen increased during the decomposition of Spartina stem, sheath and root litter, while the amount of nitrogen in Scirpus and Phragmites litter declined during decomposition for all tissue types. Our results suggest that Spartina invasion altered the carbon and nitrogen cycling in the coastal marshlands of China.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4

References

  1. Allison SD, Vitousek PM (2004) Rapid nutrient cycling in leaf litter from invasive plants in Hawaii. Oecologia 141:612–619

  2. Austin AT, Vitousek PM (2000) Precipitation, decomposition and litter decomposability of Metrosideros polymorpha in native forests on Hawai’i. J Ecol 88:129–138

  3. Austin AT, Vivanco L (2006) Plant litter decomposition in a semi-arid ecosystem controlled by photodegradation. Nature 442:555–558

  4. Berg B, McClaugherty C (2003) Plant litter decomposition, humus formation, carbon sequestration. Springer, New York

  5. Chen JK (2003) Comprehensive surveys on Shanghai Jiuduansha wetland nature reserve, the Yangtze River Estuary (in Chinese). Science Press, Beijing

  6. Chimney MJ, Pietro KC (2006) Decomposition of macrophytes litter in a subtropical constructed wetlands in south Florida (USA). Ecol Eng 27:301–321

  7. Currin CA, Paerl HW (1998) Epiphytic nitrogen fixation association with standing dead shoots of smooth cordgrass, Spartina alterniflora. Estuaries 21:108–117

  8. Daehler CC, Strong DR (1995) Impact of high herbivore densities on introduced smooth cordgrass, Spartina alterniflora, invading San Francisco Bay, California. Estuaries 18:409–417

  9. Day RT, Keddy PA, McNeill J, Carleton T (1988) Fertility and disturbance gradients: a summary model for riverine marsh vegetation. Ecology 69:1044–1054

  10. Delaune RD, Smith CJ, Patrick WH Jr (1983) Relationship of marsh elevation, redox potential, and sulfide to Spartina alterniflora productivity. Soil Sci Soc Am J 47:930–935

  11. Denward CM, Edling H, Tranvik LJ (1999) Effects of solar radiation on bacterial and fungal density on aquatic plant detritus. Freshw Biol 82:51–58

  12. Denward CM, Tranvik LJ (1998) Effects of solar radiation on aquatic macrophytes litter decomposition. Oikos 82:51–58

  13. Dornbush ME, Isenhart TM, Raich JW (2002) Quantifying fine-root decomposition: an alternative to buried litterbags. Ecology 83:2985–2990

  14. Ehrenfeld JG (2003) Effects of exotic plant invasions on soil nutrient cycling processes. Ecosystems 6:503–523

  15. Eviner VT (2004) Plant traits that influence ecosystem processes vary independently among species. Ecology 85:2215–2229

  16. Findlay SEG, Dye S, Kuehn KA (2002) Microbial growth and nitrogen retention in litter of Phragmites australis compared to Typha angustifolia. Wetlands 22:616–625

  17. Frasco BA, Good RE (1982) Decomposition dynamics of Spartina alterniflora and Spartina patens in a New Jersey salt marsh. Am J Bot 69:402–406

  18. Gessner MO (2001) Mass loss, fungal colonization and nutrient dynamics of Phragmites australis leaves during senescence and early aerial decay. Aquat Bot 69:325–339

  19. Gratton C, Denno RF (2005) Restoration of arthropod assemblages in a Spartina salt marsh following removal of the invasive plant Phragmites australis. Restor Ecol 13:358–372

  20. Gross MF, Hardisky MA, Wolf PL, Klemas V (1991) Relationship between aboveground and belowground biomass of Spartina alterniflora (smooth cordgrass). Estuaries 14:180–191

  21. Hackney CT, de la Cruz AA (1980) In situ decomposition of roots and rhizomes of two tidal marsh plants. Ecology 61:226–231

  22. Hicks RE, Lee C, Marinucci AC (1991) Loss and recycling of amino acids and protein from smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) litter. Estuaries 4:430–439

  23. Hierro JL, Maron JL, Callaway RM (2005) A biogeographical approach to plant invasions: the importance of studying exotic in their introduced and native range. J Ecol 93:5–15

  24. Huang HM, Zhang LQ, Gao ZG (2005) The vegetation resource at the intertidal zone in Shanghai using remote sensing (in Chinese). Acta Ecol Sin 25:2686–2693

  25. Knops JMH, Bradley KL, Wedin DA (2002) Mechanisms of plant species impacts on ecosystem nitrogen cycling. Ecol Lett 5:454–466

  26. Kuehn KA, Suberkropp K (1998) Diel fluctuations in microbial activity associate with standing-dead litter of the freshwater emergent macrophytes Juncus effusus. Aquat Microb Ecol 14:171–182

  27. Kuehn KA, Churchill PF, Suberkropp K (1998) Osmoregulatory strategies of fungal populations inhabiting standing dad litter of the emergent macrophytes Juncus effuses. Appl Environ Microbiol 64:607–612

  28. Kuehn KA, Steiner D, Gessner MO (2004) Diel mineralization patterns of standing-dead plant litter, implications for CO2 flux from wetlands. Ecology 85:2504–2518

  29. Li B, Liao CZ, Zhang XD, Chen HL, Wang Q, Chen ZY, Gan XJ, Wu JH, Zhao B, Ma ZJ, Cheng XL, Jiang LF, Chen JK (2008) Spartina alterniflora invasions in the Yangtze River estuary, China: an overview of current status and ecosystem effects. Ecol Eng (in press)

  30. Liao CZ (2007) The effects of invasive alien plants on ecosystem carbon and nitrogen cycles: a case study of Spartina alterniflora invasion in the Yangtze estuary and A meta-analysis. PhD thesis. Fudan University, Shanghai, China

  31. Liao CZ, Luo YQ, Jiang LF, Zhou XH, Wu XW, Fang CM, Chen JK, Li B (2007) Invasion of Spartina alterniflora enhanced ecosystem carbon and nitrogen stocks in the Yangtze Estuary, China. Ecosystems 10:1351–1361

  32. Liao CZ, Peng RH, Luo YQ, Zhou XH, Wu XW, Fang CM, Chen JK, Li B (2008) Altered ecosystem carbon and nitrogen cycles by plant invasion: a meta-analysis. New Phytol 177:706–714

  33. Murkin HR, van der Valk G, Davis CB (1989) Decomposition of four dominant macrophytes in the delta marsh, Manitoba. Wildl Soc B 17:215–221

  34. Netto SA, Lana PC (1999) The role of above-and below-ground components of Spartina alterniflora (Loisel) and detritus biomass in structuring macrobenthic associations of Paranaguá bay (SE, Brazil). Hydrobiologia 400:167–177

  35. Newell SY (1993) Decomposition of shoots of a saltmarsh grass, methodology and dynamics of microbial assemblages. Adv Microbial Ecol 13:301–326

  36. Newell SY, Fallon RD (1989) Litterbags, leaf tags, and decay of nonabscised intertidal leaves. Can J Bot 67:2324–2327

  37. Parton W, Sliver WL, Burke IC, Grassens L, Harmon ME, Currie WS, King JY, Adair EC, Brandt LA, Hart SC, Fasth B (2007) Global-scale similarities in nitrogen release patterns during long-term decomposition. Science 315:361–364

  38. Poon MOK, Hyde KD (1998) Biodiversity of intertidal estuarine fungi on Phragmites at Mai Po Marshes, Hong Kong. Bot Mar 41:141–155

  39. Roman CT, Daiber FC (1984) Aboveground and belowground primary production dynamics of two Delaware Bay tidal marshes. Bull Torrey Bot Club 111:34–41

  40. Romero LM, Smith TJ, Fourqurean JW (2005) Changes in mass and nutrient content of wood during decomposition in a south Florida mangrove forest. J Ecol 93:618–630

  41. Schubauer JP, Hopkinson CS (1984) Above-and belowground emergent macrophytes production and turnover in a coastal marsh ecosystem, Georgia. Limnol Oceanogr 29:1052–1065

  42. Valiela I, Teal JM, Persson NY (1976) Production and dynamics of experimentally enriched salt marsh vegetation: belowground biomass. Limnol Oceanogr 21:245–252

  43. van Soest PJ (1963) Use of detergents in the analysis of fibrous feeds. Rapid method for determination of fiber and lignin. J Assoc Off Anal Chem 46:829–835

  44. Vivanco L, Austin AT (2006) Intrinsic effects of species on leaf litter and root decomposition: a comparison of temperate grasses from North and South America. Oecologia 150:97–107

  45. Wang Q, An SQ, Ma ZJ, Zhao B, Chen JK, Li B (2006) Invasive Spartina alterniflora: biology, ecology and management. Acta Phytotaxon Sin 44:559–588

  46. Windham L (2001) Comparison of biomass production and decomposition between Phragmites australis (common reed) and Spartina patens (salt hay grass) in brackish tidal marshes of New Jersey, USA. Wetlands 21:179–188

  47. Windham L, Ehrenfeld JG (2003) Net impact of a plant invasion on nitrogen-cycling processes within a brackish tidal marsh. Ecol Appl 13:883–897

  48. Windham L, Weis JS, Weis P (2003) Uptake and distribution of metals in two dominant salt marsh macrophytes, Spartina alterniflora (cordgrass) and Phragmites australis (common reed). Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 56:63–72

  49. Windham L, Weis JS, Weis P (2004) Metal dynamics of plant litter of Spartina alterniflora and Phragmites australis in metal-contaminated salt marshes. Part 1: patterns of decomposition and metal uptake. Environ Toxicol Chem 23:1520–1528

Download references

Acknowledgments

We are very grateful to Naishun Bu, Xin Xu, and Jing Zhu for their assistance in the fieldwork, and Drs. R. K. Monson and A. T. Austin and three anonymous referees for constructive comments. This work was supported by Foundation of Changjiang Scholar Program to Yiqi Luo, National Basic Research Program of China (Grant No.: 2006CB403305), Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos.: 30670330 and 30370235), and Ministry of Education of China (Grant No.: 105063) to Bo Li, and Innovative Foundation of graduate students of Fudan University (Grant No.: CQH1322022) to Chengzhang Liao.

Author information

Correspondence to Yi Qi Luo or Bo Li.

Additional information

Communicated by Amy Austin.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Liao, C.Z., Luo, Y.Q., Fang, C.M. et al. Litter pool sizes, decomposition, and nitrogen dynamics in Spartina alterniflora-invaded and native coastal marshlands of the Yangtze Estuary. Oecologia 156, 589–600 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-008-1007-0

Download citation

Keywords

  • Aerial decomposition of litter
  • Coastal marsh
  • Litter allocation
  • Litter nitrogen dynamics
  • Plant invasion
  • Spartina alterniflora
  • Yangtze Estuary