Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Dr. Scott Neubauer


Tidal freshwater marshes have preserved substantial stocks of soil carbon, which represents carbon dioxide that is no longer in the atmosphere. There is conflicting evidence in the literature about how disturbances such as sea level rise and associated wetland salinization impact the accumulation and long-term stability of this stored carbon. The goal of this experiment was to quantify how salinization impacts total ecosystem respiration and its component parts, autotrophic and heterotrophic respiration. This was a microcosm experiment using a C4 plant (Spartina cynosuroides) grown in soil derived from C3 plant matter and exposed to different salinities (0 to 9 psu). Results indicate that higher levels of salinization changed total ecosystem respiration. The highest salinity caused a decrease in belowground plant biomass and increased aboveground leaf mortality, although aboveground biomass was similar to other treatments. There were some issues with the isotope data, and several of the calculated autotrophic respiration measurements were impossible. These data are reviewed in the Appendix. The results from this study help shed light on changes in carbon fixation and subsequent biomass accumulation in stressed wetland ecosystems. This is a matter of great concern if it is not at a rate that keeps up with sea level rise.


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