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  1. Blagodatksaya, Evgenia (Ed.)
    Roots of salt marsh grasses contribute to soil building but also affect decomposition by releasing bioavailable carbon exudates and oxygen. Disentangling exudate and oxygen effects on decomposition is difficult in the field but essential for marsh carbon models and predicting the impacts of global change disturbances. We tested how pulsed, simulated exudates affect soil metabolism under oxic and anoxic conditions, and whether carbon and oxygen availability facilitate mineralization of existing organic matter (i.e., priming). We conducted a laboratory experiment in flow-through reactors, adding carbon pulses weekly for 84 days and then following starvation under low carbon conditions. Oxygen consumption and sulfide production were inhibited under anoxic and oxic conditions and slowed by 21±10% and 55±8%, respectively, between 1- and 5- days following exudate pulses. Respiration rates immediately following and between pulses increased over time, suggesting that microbes capitalize on and may acclimate to patchy resources. Starvation caused oxygen consumption and sulfide production to fall 28% and 78% in oxic and anoxic treatments. Smaller decreases in oxygen consumption following pulses could suggest greater access to secondary carbon sources and that sulfate reducers were more reliant on exudates. Soil organic carbon was not the likely secondary source because porewater dissolved inorganic carbon 13C values did not change during transit through the reactors, despite a ~26‰ difference between the supplied seawater and marsh soil. Interpretation of oxygen consumption rates is complicated by non-respiratory oxidation of reduced inorganic compounds and possibly significant lithoautotrophy. Exudate pulses elicited rapid and ephemeral respiratory responses, particularly under anoxia, but non-respiratory oxidation of reduced compounds obscured the impact of oxygen availability in our experimental system. Despite this, greater aerobic respiration rates suggest that oxygen availability has more potential to regulate carbon mineralization in coastal wetlands than root exudates. 
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  4. Accelerating sea-level rise will overwhelm the beneficial effects of elevated CO 2 on coastal wetland plant growth. 
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  5. Abstract

    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.

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  6. Tidal marsh plant species commonly zonate along environmental gradients such as elevation, but it is not always clear to what extent plant distribution is driven by abiotic factors vs. biotic interactions. Yet, the distinction has importance for how plant communities will respond to future change such as higher sea level, particularly given the distinct flooding tolerances and contributions to elevation gain of different species. We used observations from a 33-year experiment to determine co-occurrence patterns for the sedge, Schoenoplectus americanus, and two C4 grasses, Spartina patens and Distichlis spicata, to infer functional group interactions. Then, we conducted a functional group removal experiment to directly assess the interaction between sedge and grasses throughout the range in which they cooccur. The observational record suggested negative interactions between sedge and grasses across sedge- and grass-dominated plots, though the relationship weakened in years with greater flooding stress. The removal experiment revealed mutual release effects, indicating competition was the predominant interaction, and here, too, competition tended to weaken, though nonsignificantly, in more flooded, lower elevation zones. Whereas zonation patterns in undisturbed portions of marsh suggest that the sedge will dominate this marsh as flooding stress increases with sea level rise, we propose that grasses may exhibit a competition release effect and contribute to biomass and elevation gain even in sedge-dominated communities as sea level continues to rise. Even as abiotic stresses drive changes in the relative contributions of sedges and grasses, competition among them moderates fluctuations in total plant biomass production through time. 
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