Loss and recycling of amino acids and protein from smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) litter

Randall E. Hicks, Cindy Lee, Andrew C. Marinucci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


We investigated the source and composition of free and protein-bound amino acids during the decomposition of Spartina alterniflora Loisel in laboratory percolators and in a field experiment in the Great Sippewissett Marsh (Falmouth, Massachusetts). In the percolator experiment, 50% of the nitrogen (N) could be extracted from S. alterniflora litter in 16 d. This extract consisted of dissolved free amino acid N (28%), suspended protein amino acid N (16%), inorganic N (12%), and nitrogen from unidentified compounds (44%). Much of the free amino acid nitrogen was utilized by detrital microorganisms, resulting in a greater loss of suspended protein amino acid (SPAA) nitrogen from the biologically active percolator due to microbials biomass. Suspended microbial mass accounted for at least 50% of the SPAA washed out of the biologically active percolator. In the field study, 38% of the original litter nitrogen was leached from S. alterniflora litter in litterbags during the first 13 d. After this initial leaching period, the concentration (41% to 69% of total nitrogen) and composition of most amino acids bound in the litter did not change over the 23-month period of the experiment. Increases in microbial protein did not account for increases in total nitrogen which occurred during the decomposition of the litter. Similarly, adsorbed ammonium did not appear to be responsible for this increase.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)430-439
Number of pages10
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1991
Externally publishedYes


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