Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Dr. S. Leigh McCallister


Tidal freshwater marshes (TFMs) are unique ecosystems that bridge the gap between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and are important in the sequestration of soil organic carbon. With the ever changing global climate, TFMs are left vulnerable to downstream effects of rising sea level and salt water intrusion due to increases in flooding by saline waters. These changes often act over large spatial and temporal scales resulting in significant impacts to local and regional environments. This multidisciplinary study assessed the amount and lability of desorbed organic carbon in tidal freshwater marsh soils from the Waccamaw River Marsh, South Carolina and Sweet Hall, a marsh on the Pamunkey River, Virginia. Soils from each marsh were extracted at 0-35 practical salinity units (psu) and the dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentration, and carbon lability of the leachates were measured. At increasing levels of salinity, soil desorption amounts were higher in the Waccamaw River marsh interior and similar between the Waccamaw River creekbank and Sweet Hall levee. A larger fraction of desorbed DOC was consumed in the more organic soils from the Waccamaw River marsh in comparison to the more mineral soil from Sweet Hall Marsh. Finally, the rate of decay of the desorbed carbon was highest in the Sweet Hall levee soils, indicating more labile desorbed carbon, while the Waccamaw River Marsh soils had lower decay rates indicating less labile desorbed carbon. By understanding how salt water intrusion affects desorption and lability of soil organic carbon, in coastal marshes, we may be able to better understand how increasing sea levels may affect carbon storage in coastal ecosystems.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2009

Included in

Biology Commons