skip to main content

Title: Vegetation and hydrology stratification as proxies to estimate methane emission from tidal marshes

Direct measurement of methane emissions is cost-prohibitive for greenhouse gas offset projects, necessitating the development of alternative accounting methods such as proxies. Salinity is a useful proxy for tidal marsh CH4emissions when comparing across a wide range of salinity regimes but does not adequately explain variation in brackish and freshwater regimes, where variation in emissions is large. We sought to improve upon the salinity proxy in a marsh complex on Deal Island Peninsula, Maryland, USA by comparing emissions from four strata differing in hydrology and plant community composition. Mean CH4chamber-collected emissions measured as mg CH4m−2 h−1ranked asS. alterniflora(1.2 ± 0.3) ≫ High-elevationJ. roemerianus(0.4 ± 0.06) > Low-elevationJ. roemerianus(0.3 ± 0.07) = S. patens(0.1 ± 0.01). Sulfate depletion generally reflected the same pattern with significantly greater depletion in theS. alterniflorastratum (61 ± 4%) than in theS. patensstratum (1 ± 9%) with theJ. roemerianusstrata falling in between. We attribute the high CH4emissions in theS. alterniflorastratum to sulfate depletion likely driven by limited connectivity to tidal waters. Low CH4emissions in theS. patensstratum are attributed to lower water levels, higher levels of ferric iron, and shallow rooting depth. Moderate CH4emissions from theJ. roemerianusstrata were likely due to plant traits that favor CH4oxidation over CH4production. Hydrology and plant community composition have significant potential as proxies to estimate CH4emissions at the site scale.

more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
Springer Science + Business Media
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 227-243
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Thin layer sediment placement (TLP) is a method to mitigate factors resulting in loss of elevation and severe alteration of hydrology, such as sea level rise and anthropogenic modifications, and prolong the lifespan of drowning salt marshes. However, TLP success may vary due to plant stress associated with reductions in nutrient availability and hydrologic flushing or through the creation of acid sulfate soils. This study examined the influence of sediment grain size and soil amendments on plant growth, soil and porewater characteristics, and greenhouse gas exchange for three key US salt marsh plants: Spartina alterniflora, Spartina patens, and Salicornia pacifica. We found that bioavailable nitrogen concentrations (measured as extractable NH4+-N) and porewater pH and salinity were found to have an inverse relationship with grain size, while soil redox was more reducing in finer sediments. This suggests that utilizing finer sediments in TLP projects will result in a more reduced environment with higher nutrient availability, while larger grain-sized sediments will be better flushed and oxidized. We further found that grain size had a significant effect on vegetation biomass allocation and rates of gas exchange, although these effects were species-specific. We found that soil amendments (biochar and compost) did not subsidize plant growth but were associated with increases in soil respiration and methane emissions. Biochar amendments were additionally ineffective in ameliorating acid sulfate conditions. This study uncovers complex interactions between sediment type and vegetation, emphasizing limitations of soil amendments. The findings aid restoration project managers in making informed decisions regarding sediment type, target vegetation, and soil amendments for successful TLP projects. 
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Tidal salt marshes produce and emit CH4. Therefore, it is critical to understand the biogeochemical controls that regulate CH4spatial and temporal dynamics in wetlands. The prevailing paradigm assumes that acetoclastic methanogenesis is the dominant pathway for CH4production, and higher salinity concentrations inhibit CH4production in salt marshes. Recent evidence shows that CH4is produced within salt marshes via methylotrophic methanogenesis, a process not inhibited by sulfate reduction. To further explore this conundrum, we performed measurements of soil–atmosphere CH4and CO2fluxes coupled with depth profiles of soil CH4and CO2pore water gas concentrations, stable and radioisotopes, pore water chemistry, and microbial community composition to assess CH4production and fate within a temperate tidal salt marsh. We found unexpectedly high CH4concentrations up to 145,000 μmol mol−1positively correlated with S2−(salinity range: 6.6–14.5 ppt). Despite large CH4production within the soil, soil–atmosphere CH4fluxes were low but with higher emissions and extreme variability during plant senescence (84.3 ± 684.4 nmol m−2 s−1). CH4and CO2within the soil pore water were produced from young carbon, with most Δ14C‐CH4and Δ14C‐CO2values at or above modern. We found evidence that CH4within soils was produced by methylotrophic and hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis. Several pathways exist after CH4is produced, including diffusion into the atmosphere, CH4oxidation, and lateral export to adjacent tidal creeks; the latter being the most likely dominant flux. Our findings demonstrate that CH4production and fluxes are biogeochemically heterogeneous, with multiple processes and pathways that can co‐occur and vary in importance over the year. This study highlights the potential for high CH4production, the need to understand the underlying biogeochemical controls, and the challenges of evaluating CH4budgets and blue carbon in salt marshes.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Coastal salt marshes store large amounts of carbon but the magnitude and patterns of greenhouse gas (GHG; i.e., carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4)) fluxes are unclear. Information about GHG fluxes from these ecosystems comes from studies of sediments or at the ecosystem‐scale (eddy covariance) but fluxes from tidal creeks are unknown. We measured GHG concentrations in water, water quality, meteorological parameters, sediment CO2efflux, ecosystem‐scale GHG fluxes, and plant phenology; all at half‐hour intervals over 1 year. Manual creek GHG flux measurements were used to calculate gas transfer velocity (k) and parameterize a model of water‐to‐atmosphere GHG fluxes. The creek was a source of GHGs to the atmosphere where tidal patterns controlled diel variability. Dissolved oxygen and wind speed were negatively correlated with creek CH4efflux. Despite lacking a seasonal pattern, creek CO2efflux was correlated with drivers such as turbidity across phenological phases. Overall, nighttime creek CO2efflux (3.6 ± 0.63 μmol/m2/s) was at least 2 times higher than nighttime marsh sediment CO2efflux (1.5 ± 1.23 μmol/m2/s). Creek CH4efflux (17.5 ± 6.9 nmol/m2/s) was 4 times lower than ecosystem‐scale CH4fluxes (68.1 ± 52.3 nmol/m2/s) across the year. These results suggest that tidal creeks are potential hotspots for CO2emissions and could contribute to lateral transport of CH4to the coastal ocean due to supersaturation of CH4(>6,000 μmol/mol) in water. This study provides insights for modeling GHG efflux from tidal creeks and suggests that changes in tide stage overshadow water temperature in determining magnitudes of fluxes.

    more » « less
  4. Sediment transport on salt marsh platforms is usually brought about through storm events and high tides. At high latitudes, ice-rafting is a secondary mechanism for sediment transport, redistributing sediment from tidal flats, channels, and ponds to marshland. In January 2018, winter storm Grayson hit the North Atlantic coast, producing a large storm surge and a significant decrease in temperature. The Great Marsh in Plum Island Sound, Massachusetts, USA, experienced an unprecedented sediment deposition due to ice-rafting, burying marsh vegetation. Plant vegetation recovery was investigated in 17 sediment patches, dominated by Spartina patens , Distichlis spicata, Juncus gerardi , and S. alterniflora . The analysis was carried out considering the number of stems and stem height for each vegetation species. D. spicata firstly occupied bare patches, while S. patens , once smothered by sediment, regrew slowly. The number of stems of S. patens inside the sediment patches recovered, on average, after 2 growing seasons. The number of J. gerardi stems was not significantly affected by ice-rafted sediment deposition. S. alterniflora dynamics were different depending on physical and edaphic conditions. At some locations, S. alterniflora did not recover after sediment deposition. The deposition of the sediment layer had a positive effect on vegetation vigor, increasing stem height and maintaining high stem density. The results suggest a beneficial effect of sediment deposition not only for marsh accretion, but also for marsh vegetation growth, both of which are fundamental for marsh restoration. 
    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Tidal wetlands are comprised of complex interdependent pathways where measurements of carbon exchange are often scale dependent. Common data collection methods (i.e., chambers and eddy covariance) are inherently constrained to different spatial and temporal scales which could generate biased information for applications of carbon accounting, identifying functional relationships and predicting future responses to climate change. Consequently, it is needed to systematically evaluate measurements derived from multiple approaches to identify differences and how techniques complement each other to reconcile interpretations. To accomplish this, we tested ecosystem‐scale eddy covariance with plot‐scale chamber measurements within a temperate salt marsh. We found good agreement (R2 = 0.71–0.95) when comparing measurements of CH4emissions and CO2exchange but this agreement was dependent upon canopy phenology with discrepancies mainly arising during senescence and dormancy phenophases. The environmental drivers for CH4and CO2fluxes were mostly preserved across different measurement techniques, but the number of drivers increases while their individual strength decreases at the ecosystem scale. Empirical upscaling models parameterized with chamber measurements overestimated annual net ecosystem exchange (NEE; 108%) and gross primary production (GPP; 12%) while underestimating ecosystem respiration (Reco; 14%) and CH4emissions (69%) compared to eddy covariance measurements. Our results suggest that the environmental complexity of CH4and CO2fluxes in salt marshes may be underestimated by chamber‐based measurements, and highlights how different techniques are complementary while considering limitations at each level of measurement.

    more » « less