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European salt marshes diversity and functioning: the case study of the Mont Saint-Michel bay, France

Abstract : The macrotidal Mont Saint-Michel bay has been studied intensively since 1990. The objectives of this study, supported by the European Union, was to understand various processes underlying the functioning of this hydrosystem with a special focus on organic matter and nutrient fluxes between saltmarshes and marine waters. This paper presents a synopsis of these studies. The tidal flats are unvegetated and primary production is exclusively due to microphytobenthos communities dominated by diatoms. Halophile plant communities colonize the top parts of the tidal flats. Their composition and production vary according to a maturity gradient and sheep grazing. In ungrazed saltmashes, production ranged from 1080 gDW m−2yr−1 in the lower marsh to 1990 gDW m−2yr−1 in the upper marsh whereas it was only 200 to 500 gDW m−2yr−1 in Salicornia spp. dominated pioneer zones and sheep grazed areas. Most of this organic matter (OM) was trapped in situ, processed by fungi and bacteria, and then released seaward via tidal fluxes, groundwater and runoff as particulate OM and nutrients: -497 kg N, -1200/-1000 kg P-PO4 and -9900/-4200 kg inorganic carbon). A small amount of OM was exported to the bay as macrodetritus. Fatty acids and stable isotopes, used as markers, showed that OM produced by the marsh halophytes contributed to the diet of all the tidal flats invertebrates that were studied. Transient fish species were shown to colonize the saltmarshes to forage or graze, exporting about 50 tons POM (DW)y−1. Therefore, it is assumed that the saltmarsh production enhances the production of the whole bay. But the functioning is still poorly known because the nutrient sinks have not all been identified. Part of the nutrients input was provided by precipitation (+327 kg y−1), but the contribution of the catchments was not quantified despite the fact that their influence was shown by the presence of lindane in all the compartments of the system. Dynamics of saltmarshes are mainly influenced by natural sedimentation (1.5 million m3y−1 in the bay), plant community succession, and management (i.e., reclamation and agricultural activities).
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Jean-Claude Lefeuvre, Virginie Bouchard, Eric Feunteun, Sonia Grare, Pascal Laffaille, et al.. European salt marshes diversity and functioning: the case study of the Mont Saint-Michel bay, France. Wetland Ecology and Management, 2000, Vol. 8, pp. 147-161. ⟨10.1023/A:1008440401950⟩. ⟨hal-00793416⟩

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