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International Conference on Climate Change Global Warming

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Leaching and microbial degradation of dissolved organic matter from salt marsh plants and seagrasses

Author(s): Wang XC, Chen RF, Cable JE, Cherrier J


Dissolved organic matter (DOM) is outwelled from highly productive salt marshes, but its sources and fates are unclear. To examine common salt marsh plants as sources of coastal DOM, two dominant salt marsh vascular plants Spartina alterniflora and Juncus roemarianus, and two major coastal seagrasses Syringodium filiforme and Halodule wrightii, were collected from a Florida salt marsh and studied using laboratory incubation experiments. We investigated the leaching dynamics of dissolved organic carbon (DOC), total dissolved nitrogen (TDN), and chromophoric dissolved organic matter (CDOM) from these plants, in conjunction with our field investigations of the sources and outwelling of DOM from Florida salt marshes. The leaching of DOM and CDOM from the plants was a rapid process, and leaching rates were 65–288 µM/g dry weight/day for DOC and 3.8–16 µM/g dry weight/day for TDN from different plants in the bacteria-inhibited incubations. DOC was proportional to TDN in the leachates, but the quantity of C and N leached was dependent on the species and growth stage of the plants. At the end of the 25-day experiments, 5.4–23 % and 10–45 % of solid phase C and N were released into DOC and TDN pools, respectively. Bacteria played an important role during the leaching process. The majority of DOC and TDN leached from marsh plants and seagrasses was labile and highly biodegradable with 56–90 % of the leached DOC and 44–72 % of the leached TDN being decomposed at the end of the experiments. The fluorescence measurements of CDOM indicate that organic matter leached from marsh plants and seagrasses contained mainly protein-like DOM which was degraded rapidly by bacteria. Our study suggests that leaching of DOM from salt marsh plants and seagrasses provide not only major sources of DOC, TDN, and CDOM that affect many biogeochemical processes, but also as important food sources to microbial communities in the marsh and adjacent coastal waters.

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