Saltwater reduces potential CO2 and CH4 production in peat soils from a coastal freshwater forested wetland Academic Article uri icon


  • Abstract. A major concern for coastal freshwater wetland function and health is the effects of saltwater intrusion on greenhouse gas production from peat soils. Coastal freshwater forested wetlands are likely to experience increased hydroperiod with rising sea level, as well as saltwater intrusion. These potential changes to wetland hydrology may also alter forested wetland structure and lead to a transition from forest to shrub/marsh wetland ecosystems. Loss of forested wetlands is already evident by dying trees and dead standing trees (ghost forests) along the Atlantic coast of the US, which will result in significant alterations to plant carbon (C) inputs, particularly that of coarse woody debris, to soils. We investigated the effects of salinity and wood C inputs on soils collected from a coastal freshwater forested wetland in North Carolina, USA, and incubated in the laboratory with either freshwater or saltwater (2.5 or 5.0ppt) and with or without the additions of wood. Saltwater additions at 2.5 and 5.0ppt reduced CO2 production by 41% and 37%, respectively, compared to freshwater. Methane production was reduced by 98% (wood-free incubations) and by 75%87% (wood-amended incubations) in saltwater treatments compared to the freshwater plus wood treatment. Additions of wood also resulted in lower CH4 production from the freshwater treatment and higher CH4 production from saltwater treatments compared to wood-free incubations. The 13CH4-C isotopic signature suggested that, in wood-free incubations, CH4 produced from the freshwater treatment originated primarily from the acetoclastic pathway, while CH4 produced from the saltwater treatments originated primarily from the hydrogenotrophic pathway. These results suggest that saltwater intrusion into coastal freshwater forested wetlands will reduce CH4 production, but long-term changes in C dynamics will likely depend on how changes in wetland vegetation and microbial function influence C cycling in peat soils.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 15

author list (cited authors)

  • Minick, K. J., Mitra, B., Noormets, A., & King, J. S.

citation count

  • 9

complete list of authors

  • Minick, Kevan J||Mitra, Bhaskar||Noormets, Asko||King, John S

publication date

  • December 2019