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Decomposition Processes in Coastal Wetlands: The Importance of Suaeda salsa Community for Soil Cellulose Decomposition

Ping, Yunmei, Cui, Lijuan, Pan, Xu, Li, Wei, Li, Youzhi, Kang, Xiaoming, Song, Tianyu, He, Ping
Polish Journal of Ecology 2018 v.66 no.3 pp. 217-226
Phragmites australis, Suaeda, biogeochemical cycles, cations, cellulose, chemical bases, coasts, cotton, ecosystems, organic matter, river deltas, soil electrical conductivity, tensile strength, vegetation, wetlands, China
Coastal wetlands are ecologically important all over the world, and they are relatively unstable with dramatic changes in aboveground vegetation. However, it is still unclear how the aboveground vegetation changes will influence the functioning of coastal wetland ecosystems, especially the decomposition processes. Here, we carried out a cotton strip experiment to examine the effects of Suaeda salsa community on the soil properties and the associated cellulose decomposition rates in the coastal wetlands of Liao River delta (NE China). Our results showed that S. salsa community significantly affected the contents of soil C, N, P, base cations, organic matter and the soil electrical conductivity (EC), and such effects might vary among different types or densities of aboveground vegetation. The soil cellulose decomposition rate (in terms of cotton strip tensile strength loss, CTSL) was slowed down when aboveground S. salsa communities are experiencing degradation or have been totally replaced by Phragmites australis communities. Moreover, there were positive partial correlations between soil N and CTSL, and between soil EC and CTSL, but a negative partial correlation between soil C and CTSL. Our results emphasized the importance of S. salsa community in determining the soil cellulose decomposition rate in this coastal region. The results suggest that vegetation degradation in coastal wetlands might lead to various changes in soil properties and hence affect other aspects of ecosystem functioning and services, especially nutrient cycling.