Effects of sulfate and sulfide on the life cycle of Zizania palustris in hydroponic and mesocosm experiments:

John Pastor, Brad Dewey, Nathan W. Johnson, Edward B. Swain, Philip Monson, Emily B. Peters, Amy Myrbo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Under oxygenated conditions, sulfate is relatively non-toxic to aquatic plants. However, in water-saturated soils, which are usually anoxic, sulfate can be reduced to toxic sulfide. Although the direct effects of sulfate and sulfide on the physiology of a few plant species have been studied in some detail, their cumulative effects on a plant's life cycle through inhibition of seed germination, seedling survival, growth, and seed production have been less well studied. We investigated the effect of sulfate and sulfide on the life cycle of wild rice (Zizania palustris L.) in hydroponic solutions and in outdoor mesocosms with sediment from a wild rice lake. In hydroponic solutions, sulfate had no effect on seed germination or juvenile seedling growth and development, but sulfide greatly reduced juvenile seedling growth and development at concentrations greater than 320 μg/L. In outdoor mesocosms, sulfate additions to overlying water increased sulfide production in sediments. Wild rice seedling emergence, seedling survival, biomass growth, viable seed production, and seed mass all declined with sulfate additions and hence sulfide concentrations in sediment. These declines grew steeper during the course of the 5 yr of the mesocosm experiment and wild rice populations became extinct in most tanks with concentrations of 250 mg SO4/L or greater in the overlying water. Iron sulfide precipitated on the roots of wild rice plants, especially at high sulfate application rates. These precipitates, or the encroachment of reducing conditions that they indicate, may impede nutrient uptake and be partly responsible for the reduced seed production and viability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)321-336
Number of pages16
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 by the Ecological Society of America.


  • Zizania palustris
  • hydroponics
  • life cycles
  • sulfate
  • sulfide
  • toxicity
  • wetlands
  • wild rice


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