Litter Decomposition in Created and Adjacent Forested Wetlands of the Coastal Plain of Virginia
Schmidt, John Michael
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Litter decomposition is a poorly understood function of constructed and natural forested wetlands. This study compared rates of litter mass loss, changes in litter morphology, and associated macroinvertebrate populations in constructed and natural non-tidal wetlands. Two sets of wetlands (constructed vs. natural) were studied in eastern Virginia; a 9 year-old riparian set near Fort Lee, (FL), and a 2 year-old wet flat set in Charles City County, (CC). Mixed deciduous forest litter collected from the FL natural wetland decayed more rapidly in the created wetlands than the adjacent forested wetlands. Mixed emergent marsh litter collected from the FL created wetland exhibited a similar relationship, although marsh litter decomposed slower than forest litter. Litter area and weight loss followed a similar pattern, although area loss lagged behind weight loss, consistent with an initial leaching phase of decomposition. Both the FL and CC created wetlands exhibited faster litter decomposition than their adjacent forested wetland, however, the FL created wetland had a lower weight:area ratio and higher detritivore abundance than the adjacent forested wetland, while the reverse was true for the CC wetland pair. These relationships suggest macroinvertebrates played an important role in decomposition in the FL created wetland, while other factors were more significant at CC. Faster decomposition in the created wetlands may be of concern for long-term soil organic matter accumulation, or conversely, may indicate quick recovery of the litter decomposition function. Overall, these findings point out the difficulties involved in using certain functional indicators to compare very young and mature systems.
- Masters Theses