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Title: Changes in Organic Matter Deposition Can Impact Benthic Marine Meiofauna in Karst Subterranean Estuaries
Subsurface mixing of seawater and terrestrial-borne meteoric waters on carbonate landscapes creates karst subterranean estuaries, an area of the coastal aquifer with poorly understood carbon cycling, ecosystem functioning, and impact on submarine groundwater discharge. Caves in karst platforms facilitate water and material exchange between the marine and terrestrial environments, and their internal sedimentation patterns document long-term environmental change. Sediment records from a flooded coastal cave in Cozumel Island (Mexico) document decreasing terrestrial organic matter (OM) deposition within the karst subterranean estuary over the last ∼1,000 years, with older sediment likely exported out of the cave by intense storm events. While stable carbon isotopic values (δ 13 C org ranging from −22.5 to −27.1‰) and C:N ratios (ranging from 9.9 to 18.9) indicate that mangrove and other terrestrial detritus surrounding an inland sinkhole are the primarily sedimentary OM supply, an upcore decrease in bulk OM and enrichment of δ 13 C org values are observed. These patterns suggest that a reduction in the local mangrove habitat decreased the terrestrial particulate OM input to the cave over time. The benthic foraminiferal community in basal core sediment have higher proportions of infaunal taxa (i.e., Bolivina ) and Ammonia , and assemblages shift to increased more » miliolids and less infaunal taxa at the core-top sediment. The combined results suggest that a decrease in terrestrial OM through time had a concomitant impact on benthic meiofaunal habitats, potentially by impacting dissolved oxygen availability at the microhabitat scale or resource partitioning by foraminifera. The evidence presented here indicates that landscape and watershed level changes can impact ecosystem functioning within adjacent subterranean estuaries. « less
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Frontiers in Environmental Science
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National Science Foundation
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  1. Abstract

    Epikarst estuary response to hydroclimate change remains poorly understood, despite the well-studied link between climate and karst groundwater aquifers. The influence of sea-level rise and coastal geomorphic change on these estuaries obscures climate signals, thus requiring careful development of paleoenvironmental histories to interpret the paleoclimate archives. We used foraminifera assemblages, carbon stable isotope ratios (δ13C) and carbon:nitrogen (C:N) mass ratios of organic matter in sediment cores to infer environmental changes over the past 5300 years in Celestun Lagoon, Yucatan, Mexico. Specimens (> 125 µm) from modern core top sediments revealed three assemblages: (1) a brackish mangrove assemblage of agglutinatedMiliamminaandAmmotiumtaxa and hyalineHaynesina(2) an inner-shelf marine assemblage ofBolivina,Hanzawaia, andRosalina,and (3) a brackish assemblage dominated byAmmoniaandElphidium. Assemblages changed along the lagoon channel in response to changes in salinity and vegetation, i.e. seagrass and mangrove. In addition to these three foraminifera assemblages, lagoon sediments deposited since 5300 cal yr BP are comprised of two more assemblages, defined byArchaiasandLaevipeneroplis,which indicate marineThalassiaseagrasses, andTrichohyalus,which indicates restricted inland mangrove ponds. Our data suggest that Celestun Lagoon displayed four phases of development: (1) an inland mangrove pond (5300 BP) (2) a shallow unprotected coastline with marine seagrass and barrier island initiation (4900 BP) (3) a protected brackish lagoon (3000 BP), and (4) amore »protected lagoon surrounded by mangroves (1700 BP). Stratigraphic (temporal) changes in core assemblages resemble spatial differences in communities across the modern lagoon, from the southern marine sector to the northern brackish region. Similar temporal patterns have been reported from other Yucatan Peninsula lagoons and fromcenotes(Nichupte, Aktun Ha), suggesting a regional coastal response to sea level rise and climate change, including geomorphic controls (longshore drift) on lagoon salinity, as observed today. Holocene barrier island development progressively protected the northwest Yucatan Peninsula coastline, reducing mixing between seawater and rain-fed submarine groundwater discharge. Superimposed on this geomorphic signal, assemblage changes that are observed reflect the most severe regional wet and dry climate episodes, which coincide with paleoclimate records from lowland lake archives (Chichancanab, Salpeten). Our results emphasize the need to consider coastal geomorphic evolution when using epikarst estuary and lagoon sediment archives for paleoclimate reconstruction and provide evidence of hydroclimate changes on the Yucatan Peninsula.

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Furthermore, experiments and theory also suggest that global change factors such as elevated atmospheric CO 2 , rising temperatures, and altered precipitation and disturbance regimes can reduce the availability of N to plants and microbes in many terrestrial ecosystems. This can occur through increases in biotic demand for N or reductions in its supply to organisms. Reductions in N availability can be observed via several metrics, including lowered nitrogen concentrations ([N]) and isotope ratios (δ 15 N) in plant tissue, reduced rates of N mineralization, and reduced terrestrial Nmore »export to aquatic systems. However, a comprehensive synthesis of N availability metrics, outside of experimental settings and capable of revealing large-scale trends, has not yet been carried out. ADVANCES A growing body of observations confirms that N availability is declining in many nonagricultural ecosystems worldwide. 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Successfully mitigating and adapting to declining N availability will require a broader understanding that this phenomenon is occurring alongside the more widely recognized issue of anthropogenic eutrophication. Intercalibration of isotopic records from leaves, tree rings, and lake sediments suggests that N availability in many terrestrial ecosystems has steadily declined since the beginning of the industrial era. Reductions in N availability may affect many aspects of ecosystem functioning, including carbon sequestration and herbivore nutrition. Shaded areas indicate 80% prediction intervals; marker size is proportional to the number of measurements in each annual mean. Isotope data: (tree ring) K. K. McLauchlan et al. , Sci. Rep. 7 , 7856 (2017); (lake sediment) G. W. Holtgrieve et al. , Science 334 , 1545–1548 (2011); (foliar) J. M. Craine et al. , Nat. Ecol. Evol. 2 , 1735–1744 (2018)« less