HYDROLOGY, SOIL REDOX, AND PORE-WATER IRON REGULATE CARBON CYCLING IN NATURAL AND RESTORED TIDAL FRESHWATER WETLANDS IN THE CHESAPEAKE BAY, MARYLAND, USA
Keshta, Amr El Shahat Sedik
Baldwin, Andrew H
Yarwood, Stephanie A
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Tidal freshwater wetlands are key sites for carbon (C) sequestration and main component in the global C budget. The overall research objective of my dissertation was to examine the physical and biogeochemical processes that impact C cycling in tidal freshwater wetlands. One natural and one restored tidal freshwater wetland (salinity < 0.3 ppt) were selected in Maryland, USA along the Patuxent River. Data logging water recorders were installed in wells at each habitat in February 2014 for monitoring water level at 10-minutes interval and for two years. Soil organic matter and C stocks were estimated and a novel soil C bioassay (CARBIO) was developed and tested to assess C stability (change of soil organic matter concentration over time) and decomposition rates in both sites. A total of 162 CARBIO units were deployed in the natural and restored sites, and 81 were retrieved after 1 year while the others were retrieved after 2 years. Static chambers were used to quantify methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2) flux rates during day and nighttime. My results indicated that the natural wetland had significantly higher soil C stocks than the restored site (14.8±0.50 and 8.9±0.99 kg C m-2, respectively, P <0.0001). The swamp habitat had the highest soil organic matter (36.8%), while restored mudflat has the lowest (2.8%). Higher soil organic matter was partially correlated with shallower groundwater level relative to soil surface. Soil redox data with soil pH indicated that the soil of the natural wetland habitats was more reducing than the soil at the restored habitats. Based on CARBIO index, the soils in CARBIO units that were deployed in the natural wetland was significantly higher in C sequestration rate than the restored wetland (535±291.5 and -1095±429.4 g C m-2 year-1, respectively, P site<0.05). Under the current hydrological conditions, the restored wetland habitats were not able to accumulate C inside the CARBIO units after 1 or 2 years from deployment. In-situ CARBIO units can be employed in the newly constructed wetlands as in-situ sensors that reflect the C biogeochemical processes in the ambient soil to help better understanding C stability. The restored wetland had significantly higher annual CH4 emission rates than the natural wetland (1372.1±35.89 and 880.7±144.73 g CH4 m-2 y-1, respectively, P <0.05) and the log CH4 flux rate had a significant and strong negative correlation with the pore-water total available iron. Nighttime CH4 fluxes had very low concentration (<3650 µmole m-2 h-1). Future restoration efforts should focus on soil properties that will help increase C accumulation in newly constructed wetlands, but even more important every effort should be made to conserve the natural wetlands so that ecosystem function and services including wildlife habitat, water quality improvement, and offsetting the greenhouse gas emissions are maintained.