Uptake and distribution of N, P and heavy metals in three dominant salt marsh macrophytes from Yangtze River estuary, China
We examined the variation in aboveground biomass accumulation and tissue concentrations of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn) and lead (Pb) in Phragmites australis (common reed), Spartina alterniflora (salt cordgrass), and Scirpus mariqueter throughout the growing season (April–October 2005), in order to determine the differences in net element accumulation and distribution between the three salt marsh macrophytes in the Yangtze River estuary, China. The aboveground biomass was significantly greater in the plots of S. alterniflora than in the plots of P. australis and S. mariqueter throughout the growing season (P < 0.05). In August, the peak aboveground biomass was 1246 ± 89 gDW/m2, 2759 ± 250 gDW/m2 and 548 ± 54 gDW/m2 for P. australis, S. alterniflora and S. mariqueter, respectively. The concentrations of nutrients and heavy metals in plant tissues showed similar seasonal patterns. There was a steady decline in element concentrations of the aboveground tissues from April to October. Relative element concentrations in aboveground tissues were at a peak during the spring sampling intervals with minimum levels during the fall. But the concentrations of total nitrogen and total phosphorus in the belowground tissues were relatively constant throughout growing season. Generally, trace metal concentrations in the aboveground tissues of S. mariqueter was the highest throughout the growing season, and the metal concentrations of S. alterniflora tissues (aboveground and belowground) were greater than those of P. australis. Furthermore, the aboveground pools of nutrients and metals were consistently greater for S. alterniflora than for P. australis and S. mariqueter, which suggested that the rapid replacement of native P. australis and S. mariqueter with invasive S. alterniflora would significantly improve the magnitude of nutrient cycling and bioavailability of trace metals in the salt marsh and maybe transport more toxic metals into the water column and the detrital food web in the estuary.