Storage and release of nutrients during litter decomposition for native and invasive species under different flooding intensities in a Chinese wetland.
Projections of climate change impacts over the coming decades suggest that rising sea level will flood coastal wetlands. We studied the impacts of three intensities of flooding on litter decomposition in the native Cyperus malaccensis, and the invasives Spartina alterniflora and Phragmites australis in Shanyutan wetland (Minjiang River estuary, China). Invasive species had larger C, N and P stocks in plant-litter compartments and higher fluxes among plant-litter-soil, which increased with flooding intensity. Litter mass remaining (% of initial mass) were correlated with the N:P ratio in remaining litter, consistently with the N-limitation in this wetland. P. australis had the highest accumulated N release (P<0.001) in all flooding intensities, whereas C. malaccensis had higher N accumulated release than S. alternifolia but only at low flooding intensity. At high flooding intensity, the N released in the first year of litter decomposition (g m-2 y-1) were 9.56±0.21, 2.38±0.18 and 1.92±0.03 for P. australis, S. alternifolia and C. malaccensis, respectively. The higher rates of nutrient release from litter decomposition in invasive species provided better nutrient supply during the growing season coinciding with the initial phases of decomposition. Thus, this study shows that invasive species may gain a competitive advantage over the native C. malaccensis under the projected scenarios of sea level rises.