Biochar-amended coastal wetland soil enhances growth of Suaeda salsa and alters rhizosphere soil nutrients and microbial communities.
Biochar has the potential to improve soil properties and increase plant productivity. However, due to the different types of soil, plants, and environmental factors, the impact of biochar is likely to vary. We explored the impacts of biochar prepared from an invasive plant Spartina alterniflora on plant performance and soil characteristics in a simulated coastal wetland ecosystem. We investigated the impact of three application ratios (control, 1%, and 5%; weight ratio) of biochar on the germination and growth of a native plant Suaeda salsa, the nutrient content and microbial community characteristics of the rhizosphere soil under three flooding treatments (no flooding, episodic flooding, and continuous flooding). Biochar application had no impact on seed germination of S. salsa, but promoted its seedling growth (biomass, height, root length) and nitrogen content. Biochar application also enhanced soil nutrient content and affected soil microbial community characteristics. Seed germination and seedling growth of S. salsa were sensitive to flooding and were the best under episodic flooding. Notably, flooding inhibited the impact of biochar on S. salsa and rhizosphere soil. In conclusion, biochar can positively affect the growth of S. salsa and improve the quality of rhizosphere soil, especially under no flooding. Our findings highlight the possibility of applying biochar for the restoration of S. salsa in coastal wetlands.