Spatial variation of salt-marsh organic and inorganic deposition and organic carbon accumulation: Inferences from the Venice lagoon, Italy


Journal Article

© 2015. Salt marshes are ubiquitous features of the tidal landscape governed by mutual feedbacks among processes of physical and biological nature. Improving our understanding of these feedbacks and of their effects on tidal geomorphological and ecological dynamics is a critical step to address issues related to salt-marsh conservation and response to changes in the environmental forcing. In particular, the spatial variation of organic and inorganic soil production processes at the marsh scale, a key piece of information to understand marsh responses to a changing climate, remains virtually unexplored. In order to characterize the relative importance of organic vs. inorganic deposition as a function of space, we collected 33 shallow soil sediment samples along three transects in the San Felice and Rigà salt marshes located in the Venice lagoon, Italy. The amount of organic matter in each sample was evaluated using Loss On Ignition (LOI), a hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) treatment, and a sodium hypochlorite (NaClO) treatment following the H2O2 treatment. The grain size distribution of the inorganic fraction was determined using laser diffraction techniques. Our study marshes exhibit a weakly concave-up profile, with maximum elevations and coarser inorganic grains along their edges. The amount of organic and inorganic matter content in the samples varies with the distance from the marsh edge and is very sensitive to the specific analysis method adopted. The use of a H2O2+NaClO treatment yields an organic matter density value which is more than double the value obtained from LOI. Overall, inorganic contributions to soil formation are greatest near the marsh edges, whereas organic soil production is the main contributor to soil accretion in the inner marsh. We interpret this pattern by considering that while plant biomass productivity is generally lower in the inner part of the marsh, organic soil decomposition rates are highest in the better aerated edge soils. Hence the higher inorganic soil content near the edge is due to the preferential deposition of inorganic sediment from the adjacent creek, and to the rapid decomposition of the relatively large biomass production. The higher organic matter content in the inner part of the marsh results from the small amounts of suspended sediment that makes it to the inner marsh, and to the low decomposition rate which more than compensates for the lower biomass productivity in the low-lying inner zones. Finally, the average soil organic carbon density from the LOI measurements is estimated to be 0.044 g C cm-3. The corresponding average carbon accumulation rate for the San Felice and Rigà salt marshes, 132 g C m-2 yr-1, highlights the considerable carbon stock and sequestration rate associated with coastal salt marshes.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Roner, M; D'Alpaos, A; Ghinassi, M; Marani, M; Silvestri, S; Franceschinis, E; Realdon, N

Published Date

  • July 1, 2016

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 93 /

Start / End Page

  • 276 - 287

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0309-1708

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.advwatres.2015.11.011

Citation Source

  • Scopus