Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Plant biomass and rates of carbon dioxide uptake are enhanced by successful restoration of tidal connectivity in salt marshes

August 10, 2020

Salt marshes, due to their capability to bury soil carbon (C), are potentially important regional C sinks. Efforts to restore tidal flow to former salt marshes have increased in recent decades in New England (USA), as well as in some other parts of the world. In this study, we investigated plant biomass and carbon dioxide (CO2) fluxes at four sites where restoration of tidal flow occurred five to ten years prior to the study. Site elevation, aboveground biomass, CO2 flux, and porewater chemistry were measured in 2015 and 2016 in both restored marshes and adjacent marshes where tidal flow had never been restricted. We found that the elevation in restored marsh sites was 2–16 cm lower than their natural references. Restored marshes where porewater chemistry was similar to the natural reference had greater plant aboveground biomass, gross ecosystem production, ecosystem respiration, as well as net ecosystem CO2 exchange (NEE) than the natural reference, even though they had the same plant species. We also compared respiration rates in aboveground biomass (AR) and soil (BR) during July 2016, and found that restored marshes had higher AR and BR fluxes than natural references. Our findings indicated that well-restored salt marshes can result in greater plant biomass and NEP, which has the potential to enhance rates of C sequestration at 10-yrs post restoration. Those differences were likely due to lower elevation and greater flooding frequency in the recently restored marshes than the natural marsh. The inverse relationship between elevation and productivity further suggests that, where sea-level rise rate does not surpass the threshold of plant survival, the restoration of these salt marshes may lead to enhanced organic and mineral sedimentation, extending marsh survival under increased sea level, and recouping carbon stocks that were lost during decades of tidal restriction.

Publication Year 2020
Title Plant biomass and rates of carbon dioxide uptake are enhanced by successful restoration of tidal connectivity in salt marshes
DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.141566
Authors Fanning Wang, Meagan J. Eagle, Kevin D. Kroeger, Amanda C. Spivak, Jianwu Tang
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Science of the Total Environment
Index ID 70215127
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center