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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 303:51-60 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/meps303051

Biogenic silica in tidal freshwater marsh sediments and vegetation (Schelde estuary, Belgium)

Eric Struyf1, *, Stefan Van Damme1, Britta Gribsholt2, Jack J. Middelburg2, Patrick Meire1

1University of Antwerp, Department of Biology, Ecosystem Management Research Group, Universiteitsplein 1C, 2610 Wilrijk, Belgium
2Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), Centre for Estuarine and Marine Ecology, Korringaweg 7, 4401 NT Yerseke, The Netherlands

ABSTRACT: To date, estuarine ecosystem research has mostly neglected silica cycling in freshwater intertidal marshes. However, tidal marshes can store large amounts of biogenic silica (BSi) in vegetation and sediment. BSi content of the typical freshwater marsh plants Phragmites australis, Impatiens glandulifera, Urtica dioica, Epilobium hirsutum and Salix sp. was analysed year-round. All herbaceous species accumulated silica in their tissue during their life cycle. Of the live plants, P. australis contained the most BSi (accumulating from 6 to 55 mg g–1). Dead shoots of P. australis had the highest BSi content (up to 72.2 mg g–1). U. dioica (<11.1 mg g–1), I. glandulifera (<1.1 mg g–1), E. hirsutum (<1.2 mg g–1) and Salix sp. (<1.9 mg g–1) had a much lower BSi content. Except for P. australis rhizomes (<15 mg g–1) underground biomass contained low amounts of BSi (<6 mg g–1). Sediment BSi content decreased from the surface (9 to 10 mg g–1) to deeper layers (5 to 7 mg g–1). There was seasonal variation in sediment BSi. Dissolved Si in porewater was highest in summer (ca. 600 µM) and lowest in winter (ca. 400 µM). P. australis vegetation (aboveground and roots) contained up to 126 g m–2 BSi, while the upper 30 cm of sediment accumulated up to 1500 g m–2, making sediment the largest BSi reservoir in the marsh. We conclude that P. australis wetlands could be an essential, but unrecognised, sink for BSi in the biogeochemical cycling of Si.

KEY WORDS: Biogenic silica · Freshwater marsh · Estuary · Phragmites australis · Eutrophication · Impatiens glandulifera · Sediment

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