Spatio-temporal decay 'hot spots' of stranded wrack in a Baltic sandy coastal system. Part I. Comparative study of the pattern: 1 type of wrack vs 3 beach sites
The significance of distance along the beach-dune transect and different moisture conditions as regards the decay of Zostera marina leaf litter was investigated in simple field experiments in three temperate, medium- to fine-quartz-sediment, sandy beaches of the Gulf of Gdansk in Poland. 1800 replicate litterbags of freshly stranded Zostera marina leaves were placed in beach sediments at different strata and levels on each of the beaches. The litterbags were sampled after 5, 10, 50, 100 and 150 days in the field and the remaining material was then dried and weighed. Under similar conditions of sediment composition, salinity and wave inundation, ANOVA tests revealed significant differences in breakdown through time and site. Thus there were some differences in the decay process between the low and high beach. In the former, degradation proceeded rapidly in the initial stages and then stabilised, while in the latter it remained linear throughout the study period. Matter loss in each stratum was also seasonally dependent. This may, however, be more closely linked to successional changes in the chemistry and/or microflora of the beach wrack than to its physical breakdown. Differences between organic matter degradation in the high and low beaches may be explained by differences in the moisture regime and nutrient status, and not by differences in the decay processes themselves. Therefore, two decay centres were found in the beach-dune system: the low beach together with the strandline (wrack consumption 12-21% day-1 in the warm season, and 4-10% day-1 in the cold season) and the dune (active consumption 2-6% day-1 in the warm season only).
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