Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center
Effects of flood inundation and invasion by Phalaris arundinacea on nitrogen cycling in an Upper Mississippi River floodplain forest
Swanson, W., De Jager, N.R., Strauss, E.A., Thomsen, M. 2017. Effects of flood inundation and invasion by Phalaris arundinacea on nitrogen cycling in an Upper Mississippi River floodplain forest. (2016L2) (Ecohydrology. 2017;10:e1877.https://doi.org/10.1002/eco.1877)
Although floodplains are thought to serve as important buffers against nitrogen (N) transport to aquatic systems, frequent flooding and high levels of nutrient availability also make these systems prone to invasion by exotic plant species. Invasive plants could modify the cycling and availability of nutrients within floodplains, with effects that could feedback to promote the persistence of the invasive species and impact N export to riverine and coastal areas. We examined the effect of flooding on soil properties and N cycling at a floodplain site in Pool 8 of the Upper Mississippi River with 2 plant communities: mature native forest (Acer saccharinum) and patches of an invasive grass (Phalaris arundinacea). Plots were established within each vegetation type along an elevation gradient and sampled throughout the summers of 2013 and 2014. Spatial trends in flooding resulted in higher soil organic matter, porosity, and total nitrogen and carbon in low elevations. Nutrient processes and NH4+ and NO3− availability, however, were best explained by vegetation type and time after flooding. Phalaris plots maintained higher rates of nitrification and higher concentrations of available NH4+ and NO3−. These results suggest that invasion by Phalaris may make nitrogen more readily available and could help to reinforce this species’ persistence in floodplain wetlands. They also raise the possibility that Phalaris may decrease floodplain N storage capacity and influence downstream transport of N to coastal zones.
disturbance, flood pulse, floodplain restoration, nitrogen, nitrogen cycling, Phalaris arundinacea, Upper Mississippi River