skip to main content

Title: Modeling net ecosystem carbon balance and loss in coastal wetlands exposed to sea‐level rise and saltwater intrusion
Coastal wetlands are globally important stores of carbon (C). However, accelerated sea-level rise (SLR), increased saltwater intrusion, and modified freshwater discharge can contribute to the collapse of peat marshes, converting coastal peatlands into open water. Applying results from multiple experiments from sawgrass (Cladium jamaicense)-dominated freshwater and brackish water marshes in the Florida Coastal Everglades, we developed a system-level mechanistic peat elevation model (EvPEM). We applied the model to simulate net ecosystem C balance (NECB) and peat elevation in response to elevated salinity under inundation and drought exposure. Using a mass C balance approach, we estimated net gain in C and corresponding export of aquatic fluxes ( ) in the freshwater marsh under ambient conditions (NECB = 1119 ± 229 gC m−2 year−1; FAQ = 317 ± 186 gC m−2 year−1). In contrast, the brackish water marsh exhibited substantial peat loss and aquatic C export with ambient (NECB = −366 ± 15 gC m−2 year−1; FAQ = 311 ± 30 gC m−2 year−1) and elevated salinity (NECB = −594 ± 94 gC m−2 year−1; FAQ = 729 ± 142 gC m−2 year−1) under extended exposed conditions. Further, mass balance suggests a considerable decline in soil C and corresponding elevation loss with elevated salinity and seasonal dry-down. Applying EvPEM, we developed critical marsh net primary productivity more » (NPP) thresholds as a function of salinity to simulate accumulating, steady-state, and collapsing peat elevations. The optimization showed that ~150–1070 gC m−2 year−1 NPP could support a stable peat elevation (elevation change ≈ SLR), with the corresponding salinity ranging from 1 to 20 ppt under increasing inundation levels. The C budgeting and modeling illustrate the impacts of saltwater intrusion, inundation, and seasonal dry-down and reduce uncertainties in understanding the fate of coastal peat wetlands with SLR and freshwater restoration. The modeling results provide management targets for hydrologic restoration based on the ecological conditions needed to reduce the vulnerability of the Everglades' peat marshes to collapse. The approach can be extended to other coastal peatlands to quantify C loss and improve understanding of the influence of the biological controls on wetland C storage changes for coastal management. « less
Authors:
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
2025954 1237517
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10349257
Journal Name:
Ecological Applications
ISSN:
1051-0761
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Naturally formed forest patches known as tree islands are found within lower-statured wetland matrices throughout the world, where they contrast sharply with the surrounding vegetation. In some coastal wetlands they are embedded in former freshwater marshes that are currently exposed to saltwater intrusion and mangrove encroachment associated with accelerating sea-level rise. In this study we resurveyed tree composition and determined environmental conditions in tree islands of the coastal Florida Everglades that had been examined two decades earlier. We asked whether tree islands in this coastal transition zone were differentiated geomorphologically as well as compositionally, and whether favorable geomorphology enabled coastal forest type(s) to maintain their compositional integrity against rising seas. Patterns of variation in geomorphology and soils among forest types were evident, but were dwarfed by differences between forest and adjacent wetlands. Tree island surfaces were elevated by 12–44 cm, and 210Pb analyses indicated that their current rates of vertical accretion were more rapid than those of surrounding ecosystems. Tree island soils were deeper and more phosphorus-rich than in the adjoining matrix. Salinity decreased interiorward in both tree island and marsh, but porewater was fresher in forest than marsh in Mixed Swamp Forest, midway along the coastal gradient where tropicalmore »hardwoods were most abundant. Little decrease in the abundance of tropical hardwood species nor increase in halophytes was observed during the study period. Our data suggest that geomorphological differences between organic tree island and marl marsh, perhaps driven by groundwater upwelling through more transmissive tree island soils, contributed to the forests’ compositional stability, though this stasis may be short-lived despite management efforts.« less
  2. Abstract River deltas all over the world are sinking beneath sea-level rise, causing significant threats to natural and social systems. This is due to the combined effects of anthropogenic changes to sediment supply and river flow, subsidence, and sea-level rise, posing an immediate threat to the 500–1,000 million residents, many in megacities that live on deltaic coasts. The Mississippi River Deltaic Plain (MRDP) provides examples for many of the functions and feedbacks, regarding how human river management has impacted source-sink processes in coastal deltaic basins, resulting in human settlements more at risk to coastal storms. The survival of human settlement on the MRDP is arguably coupled to a shifting mass balance between a deltaic landscape occupied by either land built by the Mississippi River or water occupied by the Gulf of Mexico. We developed an approach to compare 50 % L:W isopleths (L:W is ratio of land to water) across the Atchafalaya and Terrebonne Basins to test landscape behavior over the last six decades to measure delta instability in coastal deltaic basins as a function of reduced sediment supply from river flooding. The Atchafalaya Basin, with continued sediment delivery, compared to Terrebonne Basin, with reduced river inputs, allow us tomore »test assumptions of how coastal deltaic basins respond to river management over the last 75 years by analyzing landward migration rate of 50 % L:W isopleths between 1932 and 2010. The average landward migration for Terrebonne Basin was nearly 17,000 m (17 km) compared to only 22 m in Atchafalaya Basin over the last 78 years (p\0.001), resulting in migration rates of 218 m/year (0.22 km/year) and\0.5 m/year, respectively. In addition, freshwater vegetation expanded in Atchafalaya Basin since 1949 compared to migration of intermediate and brackish marshes landward in the Terrebonne Basin. Changes in salt marsh vegetation patterns were very distinct in these two basins with gain of 25 % in the Terrebonne Basin compared to 90 % decrease in the Atchafalaya Basin since 1949. These shifts in vegetation types as L:W ratio decreases with reduced sediment input and increase in salinity also coincide with an increase in wind fetch in Terrebonne Bay. In the upper Terrebonne Bay, where the largest landward migration of the 50 % L:W ratio isopleth occurred, we estimate that the wave power has increased by 50–100 % from 1932 to 2010, as the bathymetric and topographic conditions changed, and increase in maximum storm-surge height also increased owing to the landward migration of the L:W ratio isopleth. We argue that this balance of land relative to water in this delta provides a much clearer understanding of increased flood risk from tropical cyclones rather than just estimates of areal land loss. We describe how coastal deltaic basins of the MRDP can be used as experimental landscapes to provide insights into how varying degrees of sediment delivery to coastal deltaic floodplains change flooding risks of a sinking delta using landward migrations of 50 % L:W isopleths. The nonlinear response of migrating L:W isopleths as wind fetch increases is a critical feedback effect that should influence human river-management decisions in deltaic coast. Changes in land area alone do not capture how corresponding landscape degradation and increased water area can lead to exponential increase in flood risk to human populations in low-lying coastal regions. Reduced land formation in coastal deltaic basins (measured by changes in the land:water ratio) can contribute significantly to increasing flood risks by removing the negative feedback of wetlands on wave and storm-surge that occur during extreme weather events. Increased flood risks will promote population migration as human risks associated with living in a deltaic landscape increase, as land is submerged and coastal inundation threats rise. These system linkages in dynamic deltaic coasts define a balance of river management and human settlement dependent on a certain level of land area within coastal deltaic basins (L).« less
  3. Planktonic microbial communities mediate many vital biogeochemical processes in wetland ecosystems, yet compared to other aquatic ecosystems, like oceans, lakes, rivers or estuaries, they remain relatively underexplored. Our study site, the Florida Everglades (USA)—a vast iconic wetland consisting of a slow-moving system of shallow rivers connecting freshwater marshes with coastal mangrove forests and seagrass meadows—is a highly threatened model ecosystem for studying salinity and nutrient gradients, as well as the effects of sea level rise and saltwater intrusion. This study provides the first high-resolution phylogenetic profiles of planktonic bacterial and eukaryotic microbial communities (using 16S and 18S rRNA gene amplicons) together with nutrient concentrations and environmental parameters at 14 sites along two transects covering two distinctly different drainages: the peat-based Shark River Slough (SRS) and marl-based Taylor Slough/Panhandle (TS/Ph). Both bacterial as well as eukaryotic community structures varied significantly along the salinity gradient. Although freshwater communities were relatively similar in both transects, bacterioplankton community composition at the ecotone (where freshwater and marine water mix) differed significantly. The most abundant taxa in the freshwater marshes include heterotrophic Polynucleobacter sp. and potentially phagotrophic cryptomonads of the genus Chilomonas, both of which could be key players in the transfer of detritus-based biomass tomore »higher trophic levels.« less
  4. null (Ed.)
    Abstract How aquatic primary productivity influences the carbon (C) sequestering capacity of wetlands is uncertain. We evaluated the magnitude and variability in aquatic C dynamics and compared them to net ecosystem CO 2 exchange (NEE) and ecosystem respiration ( R eco ) rates within calcareous freshwater wetlands in Everglades National Park. We continuously recorded 30-min measurements of dissolved oxygen (DO), water level, water temperature ( T water ), and photosynthetically active radiation (PAR). These measurements were coupled with ecosystem CO 2 fluxes over 5 years (2012–2016) in a long-hydroperiod peat-rich, freshwater marsh and a short-hydroperiod, freshwater marl prairie. Daily net aquatic primary productivity (NAPP) rates indicated both wetlands were generally net heterotrophic. Gross aquatic primary productivity (GAPP) ranged from 0 to − 6.3 g C m −2  day −1 and aquatic respiration ( R Aq ) from 0 to 6.13 g C m −2  day −1 . Nonlinear interactions between water level, T water , and GAPP and R Aq resulted in high variability in NAPP that contributed to NEE. Net aquatic primary productivity accounted for 4–5% of the deviance explained in NEE rates. With respect to the flux magnitude, daily NAPP was a greater proportion of daily NEE at the long-hydroperiod sitemore »(mean = 95%) compared to the short-hydroperiod site (mean = 64%). Although we have confirmed the significant contribution of NAPP to NEE in both long- and short-hydroperiod freshwater wetlands, the decoupling of the aquatic and ecosystem fluxes could largely depend on emergent vegetation, the carbonate cycle, and the lateral C flux.« less
  5. BACKGROUND Evaluating effects of global warming from rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) concentrations requires resolving the processes that drive Earth’s carbon stocks and flows. Although biogeomorphic wetlands (peatlands, mangroves, salt marshes, and seagrass meadows) cover only 1% of Earth’s surface, they store 20% of the global organic ecosystem carbon. This disproportionate share is fueled by high carbon sequestration rates per unit area and effective storage capacity, which greatly exceed those of oceanic and forest ecosystems. We highlight that feedbacks between geomorphology and landscape-building wetland vegetation underlie these critical qualities and that disruption of these biogeomorphic feedbacks can switch these systems from carbon sinks into sources. ADVANCES A key advancement in understanding wetland functioning has been the recognition of the role of reciprocal organism-landform interactions, “biogeomorphic feedbacks.” Biogeomorphic feedbacks entail self-reinforcing interactions between biota and geomorphology, by which organisms—often vegetation—engineer landforms to their own benefit following a positive density-dependent relationship. Vegetation that dominates major carbon-storing wetlands generate self-facilitating feedbacks that shape the landscape and amplify carbon sequestration and storage. As a result, per unit area, wetland carbon stocks and sequestration rates greatly exceed those of terrestrial forests and oceans, ecosystems that worldwide harbor large stocks because of their largemore »areal extent. Worldwide biogeomorphic wetlands experience human-induced average annual loss rates of around 1%. We estimate that associated carbon losses amount to 0.5 Pg C per year, levels that are equivalent to 5% of the estimated overall anthropogenic carbon emissions. Because carbon emissions from degraded wetlands are often sustained for centuries until all organic matter has been decomposed, conserving and restoring biogeomorphic wetlands must be part of global climate solutions. OUTLOOK Our work highlights that biogeomorphic wetlands serve as the world’s biotic carbon hotspots, and that conservation and restoration of these hotspots offer an attractive contribution to mitigate global warming. Recent scientific findings show that restoration methods aimed at reestablishing biogeomorphic feedbacks can greatly increase establishment success and restoration yields, paving the way for large-scale restoration actions. Therefore, we argue that implementing such measures can facilitate humanity in its pursuit of targets set by the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Carbon storage in biogeomorphic wetlands. Organic carbon ( A ) stocks, ( B ) densities, and ( C ) sequestration rates in the world’s major carbon-storing ecosystems. Oceans hold the largest stock, peatlands (boreal, temperate, and tropical aggregated) store the largest amount per unit area, and coastal ecosystems (mangroves, salt marshes, and seagrasses aggregated) support the highest sequestration rates. ( D and E ) Biogeomorphic feedbacks, indicated with arrows, can be classified as productivity stimulating or decomposition limiting. Productivity-stimulating feedbacks increase resource availability and thus stimulate vegetation growth and organic matter production. Although production is lower in wetlands with decomposition-limiting feedbacks, decomposition is more strongly limited, resulting in net accumulation of organic matter. (D) In fens, organic matter accumulation from vascular plants is amplified by productivity-stimulating feedbacks. Once the peat rises above the groundwater and is large enough to remain waterlogged by retaining rainwater, the resulting bog maintains being waterlogged and acidic, resulting in strong decomposition-limiting feedbacks. (E) Vegetated coastal ecosystems generate productivity-stimulating feedbacks that enhance local production and trapping of external organic matter.« less