Greenhouse gas fluxes from salt marshes exposed to chronic nutrient enrichment

Gail L. Chmura, Lisa Kellman, Lee Van Ardenne, Glenn R. Guntenspergen

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33 Scopus citations


We assessed the impact of nutrient additions on greenhouse gas fluxes using dark static chambers in a microtidal and a macrotidal marsh along the coast of New Brunswick, Canada approximately monthly over a year. Both were experimentally fertilized for six years with varying levels of N and P. For unfertilized, N and NPK treatments, average yearly CO2 emissions (which represent only respiration) at the microtidal marsh (13, 19, and 28 mmoles CO2 m-2 hr-1, respectively) were higher than at the macrotidal marsh (12, 15, and 19 mmoles m-2 hr-1, respectively, with a flux under the additional high N/low P treatment of 21 mmoles m-2 hr-1). Response of CH4 to fertilization was more variable. At the macrotidal marsh average yearly fluxes were 1.29, 1.26, and 0.77 μmol CH4 m-2 hr-1 with control, N, and NPK treatments, respectively and 1.21 μmol m-2 hr-1 under high N/low P treatment. At the microtidal marsh CH4 fluxes were 0.23, 0.16, and -0.24 μmol CH4 m-2 hr-1 in control, N, and NPK and treatments, respectively. Fertilization changed soils from sinks to sources of N2O. Average yearly N2O fluxes at the macrotidal marsh were -0.07, 0.08, and 1.70, μmol N2O m-2 hr-1 in control, N, NPK and treatments, respectively and 0.35 μmol m-2 hr-1 under high N/low P treatment. For the control, N, and NPK treatments at the microtidal marsh N2O fluxes were -0.05, 0.30, and 0.52 μmol N2O m-2 hr-1, respectively. Our results indicate that N2O fluxes are likely to vary with the source of pollutant nutrients but emissions will be lower if N is not accompanied by an adequate supply of P (e.g., atmospheric deposition vs sewage or agricultural runoff). With chronic fertilization the global warming potential of the increased N2O emissions may be enough to offset the global cooling potential of the C sequestered by salt marshes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0149937
JournalPloS one
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Discovery Grant Program GLC, LK. US Geological Survey Climate and Land Use Research and Development program GRG. St. Francis Xavier University James Chair Fellowship GLC. Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Graduate Fellowship LvA. This project would not have been possible without the support of Parks Canada and Kouchibouguacis Park staff, particularly E. Tremblay and F. LeBlanc for providing access to the marsh and assisting in data collection. We are grateful to C.-E. Gabriel and B. Roughan of St. Francis Xavier University, as well as R. MacDonald, R. Marrotte, T. Neulieb, D. Torio, E. Roy-Dufresene, and J. Fox of McGill University who provided either lab or field assistance. We appreciate the comments of C. Tobias and an anonymous reviewer which substantially improved the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Public Library of Science. All rights reserved. This is an open access article, free of all copyright, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.


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