Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Spartina alterniflora invasion controls organic carbon stocks in coastal marsh and mangrove soils across tropics and subtropics.

Abstract

Coastal wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems and store large amounts of organic carbon (C)-the so termed "blue carbon." However, wetlands in the tropics and subtropics have been invaded by smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) affecting storage of blue C. To understand how S. alterniflora affects soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks, sources, stability, and their spatial distribution, we sampled soils along a 2500 km coastal transect encompassing tropical to subtropical climate zones. This included 216 samplings within three coastal wetland types: a marsh (Phragmites australis) and two mangroves (Kandelia candel and Avicennia marina). Using δ13C, C:nitrogen (N) ratios, and lignin biomarker composition, we traced changes in the sources, stability, and storage of SOC in response to S. alterniflora invasion. The contribution of S. alterniflora-derived C up to 40 cm accounts for 5.6%, 23%, and 12% in the P. australis, K. candel, and A. marina communities, respectively, with a corresponding change in SOC storage of +3.5, -14, and -3.9 t C ha-1. SOC storage did not follow the trend in aboveground biomass from the native to invasive species, or with vegetation types and invasion duration (7-15 years). SOC storage decreased with increasing mean annual precipitation (1000-1900 mm) and temperature (15.3-23.4°C). Edaphic variables in P. australis marshes remained stable after S. alterniflora invasion, and hence, their effects on SOC content were absent. In mangrove wetlands, however, electrical conductivity, total N and phosphorus, pH, and active silicon were the main factors controlling SOC stocks. Mangrove wetlands were most strongly impacted by S. alterniflora invasion and efforts are needed to focus on restoring native vegetation. By understanding the mechanisms and consequences of invasion by S. alterniflora, changes in blue C sequestration can be predicted to optimize storage can be developed.