Controls of Carbon Preservation in Coastal Wetlands of Texas: Mangrove vs. Saltmarsh Ecosystems
Thursday, 18 December 2014
The estimated magnitude of the carbon (C) stocks contained in the first meter of US coastal wetland soils represents ~10% of the entire C stock in US soils (4 vs. 52 Pg, respectively). Because this stock extends to several meters below the surface for many coastal wetlands, it becomes paramount to understand the fate of C under ecosystem shifts, varying natural environmental constraints, and changing land use. In this project we analyze total hydrolysable carbohydrates, amino acids, phenols and stable isotopic data (δ13C) at two study sites located on the Texas coastline to investigate chemical compositions and the stage of decomposition in mangrove and marsh grass dominated wetlands. Carbohydrates are used as specific decomposition indicators of the polysaccharide component of wetland plants, whereas amino acids are used to identify the contribution of microbial biomass, and acid/aldehyde ratios of syringyl (S) and vanillyl (V) phenols (Ac/AlS,V) follow the decomposition of lignin. Preliminary results show carbohydrates account for 30-50 % of organic carbon in plant litter and surface sediments at both sites. Sharp declines of carbohydrate yields with depth occur parallel to increasing Ac/AlS,V ratios indicating substantial decomposition of both the polysaccharide and lignin components of litter detritus. Ecological differences (between marsh grass and mangrove dominated wetlands) are discussed to better constrain the role of litter biochemistry and ecological shifts on C preservation in these anoxic environments.