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Porewater Evidence for a Dynamic Sedimentary Iron Cycle in Salt Marshes

Anne E. Giblin and Robert W. Howarth
Limnology and Oceanography
Vol. 29, No. 1 (Jan., 1984), pp. 47-63
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2836550
Page Count: 17
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Porewater Evidence for a Dynamic Sedimentary Iron Cycle in Salt Marshes
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Abstract

Dynamic transformations of iron occur seasonally at Great Sippewissett Marsh. Massachusetts. Small changes in the dissolved iron concentration in porewater represent only a small fraction of the iron involved in trasformation reactions during the year. During the growing season, salt marsh grasses oxidize the sediment, and a large percentage of sedimentary pyrite is converted to an oxidized iron mineral Over the fall and winter there is a net increase in pyrite as the grass in anaerobically decomposed. When oxidation rates in summer are high enough to neutralize the alkalinity produced by sulfate reduction and substantially lower the pH, oxidized iron minerals become increasingly soluble and iron levels in the porewater increase. If large amounts of soluble iron are lost by tidal flushing, iron availability may limit pyrite formation in later years. Sulfide concentrations in the porewater would then increase, leading to depressed growth of Spartina alterniflora. For most of the year the porewaters of Great Sippewissett were undersaturated with respect to all iron monosulfide minerals and supersaturated with respect to pyrite $(FeS_2)$. Thus pyrite formation at Great Sippewissett probably occurs directly by reaction of polysulfides with iron and not by reactions of FeS with elemental sulfur. Porewaters were always undersaturated with respect to manganese minerals. Porewaters taken from marshes at Sapelo Island, Georgia, in fall were supersaturated with respect to pyrite at all depths and appear to be saturated for iron monosulfides below 12 cm at all sites.

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