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An intact tidal freshwater marsh system (3477 m2) was labelled by adding 15N-ammonium as a tracer to the flood water inundating the ecosystem. The appearance and retention of 15N-label in different marsh components (leaves, roots, sediment, leaf litter and invertebrate fauna) was followed over 15 days. This allowed us to elucidate the direct assimilation and dependence on creek-water nitrogen on a relatively short term and provided an unbiased assessment of the relative importance of the various compartments within the ecosystem. Two separate experiments were conducted, one in spring/early summer (May 2002) when plants were young and building up biomass; the other in late summer (September 2003) when macrophytes were in a flowering or early senescent state. Nitrogen assimilation rate (per hour inundated) was >3 times faster in May compared to September. On both occasions, however, the results clearly revealed that the less conspicuous compartments such as leaf litter and ruderal vegetations are more important in nitrogen uptake and retention than the prominent reed (Phragmites australis) meadows. Moreover, short-term nitrogen retention in these nutrient rich marshes occurs mainly via microbial pathways associated with the litter and sediment. Rathe
Original languageEnglish
Journal publication date2007

ID: 144877