Tidal influences on carbon assimilation by a salt marsh

James C. Kathilankal, Thomas J. Mozdzer, Jose D. Fuentes, Paolo D'Odorico, Karen J. McGlathery, Jay C. Zieman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


Salt marshes are among the most productive ecosystems on Earth, and play an important role in the global carbon cycle. Net carbon dioxide (CO2) ecosystem exchanges in coastal salt marshes remain poorly investigated. In Spartina alterniflora dominated North American Atlantic coast marshes, the lack of a clear understanding of how Spartina alterniflora responds to flooding limits our current ability to understand and predict salt marsh response to sea-level rise. Here we investigate the processes influencing ecosystem-level carbon exchanges between a S.alterniflora dominated salt marsh on the eastern shore of Virginia and the atmosphere. We examined the impacts of tidal inundation on the marsh-atmosphere carbon exchanges through a combination of eddy covariance measurements and in situ photosynthetic measurements. Maximum daytime carbon fluxes were observed during the middle of the growing season (July and August) and amounted to -10μmolCO2m-2s -1, and the marsh assimilated 130gCm-2 during the 2007 growing season. Our study is the first to quantify the effects of tidal inundation on marsh plants, which caused anywhere from 3% to 91% reductions in atmospheric carbon fluxes, with a mean reduction of 46 26%, when compared to non-flooded conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number044010
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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