Semester of Graduation

Summer 2023


Master of Science (MS)


Oceanography and Coastal Sciences

Document Type



The Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion will divert sediments and fresh water from the Mississippi River into mid-Barataria Basin, LA for the purposes of building and sustaining coastal marshes, potentially reducing the estuarine salinity to 0 during operation. Increased freshwater inputs to the area of project influence may reduce porewater salinity and induce ammonium adsorption in brackish marsh soils of the region, potentially impacting the activity of ammonium-producing and denitrifying bacteria. However, brackish soils occur in zones of intermediate salinity and may, therefore, exhibit biogeochemical resilience to episodic changes in surface water salinity. I hypothesized that inundating brackish marsh soils with fresh (0 salinity) water would (i) reduce porewater salinity and (ii) increase exchangeable NH4+concentrations with depth over time but (iii) not impact rates of potentially mineralizable nitrogen (PMN) or potential denitrification.

Intact soil cores from the mid-Barataria Basin were flooded with continuously flowing fresh water for 0, 7, or 28 d, sectioned in 2 cm intervals, and measured for porewater salinity, exchangeable and porewater NH4+, and microbial biomass nitrogen. Porewater salinity of the top 4 cm decreased after 7 d of continuous freshwater inundation, but further freshening did not occur with depth after 28 d. The ratio of exchangeable NH4+ to porewater NH4+ increased at 0–2 cm between 0–7 d, likely due to the concomitant reduction of porewater salinity by 5.30 [4.22, 6.39], and similarly did not change further with depth over time. Microbial biomass N at 0–2 cm did not change between 0–28 d of the freshwater inundation.

The impact of extreme low- (0) and high-saline (35) pulses on nitrogen mineralization rates and denitrification was also quantified by measuring NH4+ production and NO3 loss in shaken bottles over time. Salinity fluctuations did not significantly impact measured microbial activity in the brackish marsh soils. This thesis demonstrates that brackish marsh soils may exhibit biogeochemical resilience to episodic coastal freshening and salinization events.



Committee Chair

White, John R.

Available for download on Tuesday, July 02, 2024