Jackson Estuarine Laboratory

Production and metabolism of the marsh grass Spartina patens as related to edaphic factors in a brackish, mixed marsh community in Louisiana


Effects of soil factors on physiological indicators of Spartina patens and live standing crop of the macrophyte community were investigated in a brackish marsh. Three distinct physiognomic zones were studied along a transect perpendicular to a tidal creek: the marsh edge, which was directly adjacent to the creek; the levee berm, 6 to 8 m from the creek; and the inland zone, which extended through the marsh interior. Soil physicochemical factors (soil moisture, redox potential, interstitial pH, salinity, and ammonium and sulfide concentrations) were compared to physiological indicators of Spartina patens (leaf adenine nucleotides, root alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) activity, and levels of ethanol, lactate, alanine and malate in the roots). In correlation matrices of soil and plant factors, increases in soil moisture and decreases in redox potential were associated with depressed leaf adenylate energy charge ratios (AEC, an integrative measure of plant stress) and elevated ADH activities and metabolite levels in the roots. ADH activity was greatest in roots from the inland zone where soil waterlogging was greatest and exhibited seasonal increases that followed seasonal declines in soil redox potential. Leaf AEC was greatest in the berm and generally lowest in the inland plants. End of season live standing crop was also greatest on the berm, but did not closely follow any edaphic trends across the three zones. This suggests that several factors, (i.e., soil aeration, and sulfide and nitrogen levels) may be of greater importance to standing crop than any single factor, as is thought for salt marshes dominated by S. alterniflora.


Jackson Estuarine Laboratory, Natural Resources and the Environment

Publication Date


Journal Title




Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Document Type



© Estuaries Research Federation 1989