Effects of Spartina alterniflora invasion on biogenic elements in a subtropical coastal mangrove wetland.
The invasion by exotic cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) has become one of the most serious and challenging environmental and ecological problems in coastal China because it can have adverse effects on local native species, thereby changing ecosystem processes, functions, and services. In this study, 300 surface sediments were collected from 15 stations in the Jiulong River Estuary, southeast China, across four different seasons, in order to reveal the spatiotemporal variability of biogenic elements and their influencing factors in the subtropical coastal mangrove wetland. The biogenic elements including carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur (C, N, and S) were determined by an element analyzer, while the phosphorus (P) was determined by a flow injection analyzer. The concentrations of biogenic elements showed no significant differences among four seasons except total phosphorus (TP); however, our ANOVA analyses revealed a distinct spatial pattern which was closely related with the vegetation type and tidal level. Values of total carbon (TC) and total nitrogen (TN) in the surface sediment of mangrove vegetation zones were higher than those in the cordgrass and mudflat zones. The concentrations of TC, TN, TP, and total sulfur (TS) in the high tidal zones were higher than those in the middle and low tidal zones. Redundancy analysis (RDA) revealed that tidal level, vegetation type, and season had some significant influence on the distribution of biogenic elements in the Jiulong River Estuary, by explaining 18.2, 7.7, and 4.9% of total variation in the four biogenic elements, respectively. In conclusion, S. alterniflora invasion had substantial effects on the distributions of biogenic elements in the subtropical coastal wetland. If regional changes in the Jiulong River Estuary are to persist and much of the mangrove vegetation was to be replaced by cordgrass, there would be significant decreases on the overall storage of C and N in this coastal zone. Therefore, the native mangrove reforestation and exotic cordgrass elimination should be a priority in mangrove sustainable management for coastal ecosystem health.