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Tropical Coastal Wetlands Ameliorate Nitrogen Export During Floods

Wetlands can increase resilience to extreme climatic events and have a key role in protection and water quality improvement in coastal ecosystems. Studies in tropical coastal wetlands at a catchment scale are scarce, and most work has been undertaken on small, temperate wetlands. In this study, we tested whether natural coastal wetlands in a tropical catchment (Tully-Murray, Queensland, Australia) could ameliorate nitrogen (N) exported to the Great Barrier Reef during a flood event. We measured denitrification rates in different types of coastal wetlands (mangroves, saltmarshes, waterbodies with macrophytes, and floodplain wetlands dominated by Melaleuca spp.) to assess their potential contribution to N losses during the 6-day duration of a flood in March 2018. Denitrification potential was variable across the landscape, and we identified “hotspots” in sub-catchments with high NO−3-N concentrations (0.4–0.6 mg L−1) and large areas of wetlands (>800 ha, >40% of the sub-catchment). These hotspots can denitrify up to 10 t of NO−3-N per day during a flood. We used our measured denitrification rates to provide input parameters for a model that includes the main biogeochemical processes affecting N transformations within wetlands (nitrification, denitrification, plant uptake, sedimentation, anammox, and mineralization), and accounts for transport via the duration, depth, and flow of water. Model simulations of a sub-catchment of the Tully-Murray indicate that flood inundation of large areas of natural wetlands (>40% of the sub-catchment area) could potentially remove 70% of the incoming NO−3-N load in the first 24 h of the flood. The management and restoration of coastal tropical wetlands could play a critical role in sustaining the health of coastal ecosystems through water quality improvement.
Author: Adame, M F; Roberts, M E; Hamilton, D P; Ndehedehe, C E; Reis, V; Lu, J; Griffiths, M; Curwen, G; Ronan, M
Language: English
Pubished By: Frontiers in Marine Science
Pubished date: November 2019

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