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Decomposition in estuarine salt marshes: the effect of soil salinity and soil water content
Hemminga, M.A.; De Leeuw, J.; De Munck, W. (1991). Decomposition in estuarine salt marshes: the effect of soil salinity and soil water content. Vegetatio 94(1): 25-33.
In: Vegetatio. Dr. W. Junk B.V. Publishers: The Hague. ISSN 0042-3106, more

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  • Hemminga, M.A., more
  • De Leeuw, J., more
  • De Munck, W.

    The relation between decomposition rates and soil salinity and moisture conditions in tidal marshes of the Westerschelde estuary was investigated. In the first part of the study, these soil factors were experimentally manipulated in field plots which were either screened from rainwater or which received an additional weekly supply of freshwater from April to September 1989. These treatments had no clear effect on soil salinities and moisture conditions in a low marsh site. Decomposition rates of Spartina anglica leaves (kept in litterbags in the plots) also did not differ between treatments. In screened plots of a middle marsh site, decomposition rate of Elymus pycnanthus leaves decreased significantly. The effect of the experimental treatments on soil moisture content was variable, but comparatively high soil salinity values (up to 61.3 permil) were consistently found in these plots. It is suggested that the elevated salinity levels induced the decrease in decomposition rate.In the second part of the study, cellulolytic decomposition, measured by loss of tensile strength of strips of cotton test cloth, was investigated in relation to a non-manipulated range of soil salinities (3.8-24.2 permil), by exposing the strips in a series of tidal marshes along the salt gradient of the Westerschelde estuary. No correlation between decomposition rate and soil salinity was found. In addition, no relation was found between decomposition rate and soil water content. The results of both parts of this study lead us to the hypothesis that rate limitation of decomposition in estuarine tidal marsh soils is found at high soil salinities only.

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