Nutrient enrichment and the role of salt marshes in the Tagus estuary (Portugal)

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Eutrophication is one of the most common impacts of nutrient enrichment on coastal ecosystems. Since there is a wide ecosystem response variety in scale, intensity and impact to nutrient enrichment, the loading required to produce eutrophication symptoms to each system is also variable. In estuaries and coastal zones salt marsh primary producers have received less attention, mainly because salt marsh dominated systems are considered less sensitive to nutrient enrichment and, for that reason, their response is slower and more difficult to quantify. Salt marshes have been considered as major attenuators of the effects of nitrogen enrichment in several coastal systems, and are indicated as a measure of the system susceptibility to nutrient enrichment. The main goal of the present work is to discuss the role of salt marsh vegetation in the nutrient dynamics of coastal systems and in the nutrient enrichment process. For these purposes salt marsh vegetation growth in the Tagus estuary is described through a mathematical model which includes the simulation of the nutrient dynamics through the sediment-water interface and the uptake kinetics by the vascular plants. An analysis of the role of salt marsh vegetation on the nutrient dynamics of the Tagus estuary is carried out through the discussion of the model results and comparison with data obtained for other primary producers in the system. The results indicate that C(4) salt marsh plants have the highest productivity, followed by seaweeds. The total net production of salt marsh plants and is about 12,600 ton C yr(-1), accounting for 25% of the total primary production within the system.
Original languageUnknown
Pages (from-to)393-407
JournalEstuarine Coastal And Shelf Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007

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