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! An oligotrophic coastal freshwater marsh converted to open water within months after receiving partially-treated sewage water in fall 2006. Rafts of the upper 60 cm of marsh soil were found throughout the area within two years, as parts of the 1100 year-old marsh were re-distributed in the open water. We examined the marsh soils from 2009 to 2012 to determine some of the cause-and-effect consequences of their decomposition to the formation of these floating mats. There was a lack of herbivory damage in April 2009 where the outer boundary of the soil profile was weakened at 50-60 cm depth, and eventually converted to open water. A 2012 storm event flooded the area by 1.5 m, resulting in new marsh mat 'pop-ups' whose bottom underside was coincidental with the layer of maximum decline in soil strength in the sewage treated area. We conclude that the addition of partially-treated sewage weakened the soil structure during this high water event and others to allow for the vertical separation of the marsh as the buoyancy forces exceeded the marsh's anchor strength, thereby exposing the softer older peats to decomposition, and smothering marsh underneath the mat's new location. A chronic effect of eutrophication on these marshes was, therefore, revealed in a dramatic flooding event. A bottom up (nutrient addition), not top-down stress (herbivory) contributed to wetland loss in the area, and is a potentially significant chronic stressor for other eutrophied marshes with significant aboveground flooding.

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Wetlands Ecology And Management

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