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van Wijnen, H.J., Bakker, J.P.: Nitrogen accumulation and plant species replacement in three salt marsh systems in the Wadden Sea. Journal of Coastal Conservation, 3: 19-26, 1997.


Abstract. Salt marsh development on the coastal barrier island of Schiermonnikoog (The Netherlands) was compared with two other salt marsh systems in the Wadden Sea. Accretion rate, nitrogen accumulation and changes in plant species composition were investigated using chronosequences. The age of the marsh was estimated from aerial photographs and old maps. In 7230 plots, the elevation of the marsh surface, the thickness of the sediment layer (clay) and the presence of plant species was recorded. In addition, the nitrogen pool was measured at each successional stage. Accretion rates were similar in the three salt marshes. Higher accretion rates were found at younger marshes. A strong linear relationship between nitrogen pool size and thickness of the clay layer was found for the three marshes. The accumulation rate of nitrogen is therefore strongly related to the accretion rate. Thus, more nitrogen is present in the sediment of later successional stages where more clay has accumulated. On the high salt marsh (55 cm + MHT), Armeria maritima disappeared and Artemisia maritima, Juncus gerardi and Elymus athericus established at sites with a thicker clay layer. On the low salt marsh (25 cm +MHT), Plantago maritima, Puccinellia maritima and Limonium vulgare disappeared and Atriplex (Halimione) portulacoides established. Apparently, with the accumulation of clay and therefore of nitrogen, tall growing species take over in salt marshes not grazed by livestock.

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