skip to main content


The NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) system and access will be unavailable from 11:00PM ET on Friday, December 15 until 2:00 AM ET on Saturday, December 16 due to maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Title: Intensified inundation shifts a freshwater wetland from a CO 2 sink to a source

Climate change has altered global precipitation patterns and has led to greater variation in hydrological conditions. Wetlands are important globally for their soil carbon storage. Given that wetland carbon processes are primarily driven by hydrology, a comprehensive understanding of the effect of inundation is needed. In this study, we evaluated the effect of water level (WL) and inundation duration (ID) on carbon dioxide (CO2) fluxes by analysing a 10‐year (2008–2017) eddy covariance dataset from a seasonally inundated freshwater marl prairie in the Everglades National Park. Both gross primary production (GPP) and ecosystem respiration (ER) rates showed declines under inundation. While GPP rates decreased almost linearly as WL and ID increased, ER rates were less responsive to WL increase beyond 30 cm and extended inundation periods. The unequal responses between GPP and ER caused a weaker net ecosystem CO2sink strength as inundation intensity increased. Eventually, the ecosystem tended to become a net CO2source on a daily basis when either WL exceeded 46 cm or inundation lasted longer than 7 months. Particularly, with an extended period of high‐WLs in 2016 (i.e., WL remained >40 cm for >9 months), the ecosystem became a CO2source, as opposed to being a sink or neutral for CO2in other years. Furthermore, the extreme inundation in 2016 was followed by a 4‐month postinundation period with lower net ecosystem CO2uptake compared to other years. Given that inundation plays a key role in controlling ecosystem CO2balance, we suggest that a future with more intensive inundation caused by climate change or water management activities can weaken the CO2sink strength of the Everglades freshwater marl prairies and similar wetlands globally, creating a positive feedback to climate change.

more » « less
Award ID(s):
1832229 1237517 0620409 1807533
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Global Change Biology
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 3319-3333
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. 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 site (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. 
    more » « less
  2. 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 (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. 
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    The advancement of spring and the differential ability of organisms to respond to changes in plant phenology may lead to “phenological mismatches” as a result of climate change. One potential for considerable mismatch is between migratory birds and food availability in northern breeding ranges, and these mismatches may have consequences for ecosystem function. We conducted a three‐year experiment to examine the consequences for CO2exchange of advanced spring green‐up and altered timing of grazing by migratory Pacific black brant in a coastal wetland in western Alaska. Experimental treatments represent the variation in green‐up and timing of peak grazing intensity that currently exists in the system. Delayed grazing resulted in greater net ecosystem exchange (NEE) and gross primary productivity (GPP), while early grazing reduced CO2uptake with the potential of causing net ecosystem carbon (C) loss in late spring and early summer. Conversely, advancing the growing season only influenced ecosystem respiration (ER), resulting in a small increase in ER with no concomitant impact on GPP or NEE. The experimental treatment that represents the most likely future, with green‐up advancing more rapidly than arrival of migratory geese, results in NEE changing by 1.2 µmol m−2 s−1toward a greater CO2sink in spring and summer. Increased sink strength, however, may be mitigated by early arrival of migratory geese, which would reduce CO2uptake. Importantly, while the direct effect of climate warming on phenology of green‐up has a minimal influence on NEE, the indirect effect of climate warming manifest through changes in the timing of peak grazing can have a significant impact on C balance in northern coastal wetlands. Furthermore, processes influencing the timing of goose migration in the winter range can significantly influence ecosystem function in summer habitats.

    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Wetlands play an important role in regulating the atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations and thus affecting the climate. However, there is still lack of quantitative evaluation of such a role across different wetland types, especially at the global scale. Here, we conducted a meta‐analysis to compare ecosystemCO2fluxes among various types of wetlands using a global database compiled from the literature. This database consists of 143 site‐years of eddy covariance data from 22 inland wetland and 21 coastal wetland sites across the globe. Coastal wetlands had higher annual gross primary productivity (GPP), ecosystem respiration (Re), and net ecosystem productivity (NEP) than inland wetlands. On a per unit area basis, coastal wetlands provided largeCO2sinks, while inland wetlands provided smallCO2sinks or were nearlyCO2neutral. The annualCO2sink strength was 93.15 and 208.37 g C m−2for inland and coastal wetlands, respectively. AnnualCO2fluxes were mainly regulated by mean annual temperature (MAT) and mean annual precipitation (MAP). For coastal and inland wetlands combined,MATandMAPexplained 71%, 54%, and 57% of the variations inGPP,Re, andNEP, respectively. TheCO2fluxes of wetlands were also related to leaf area index (LAI). TheCO2fluxes also varied with water table depth (WTD), although the effects ofWTDwere not statistically significant.NEPwas jointly determined byGPPandRefor both inland and coastal wetlands. However, theNEP/ReandNEP/GPPratios exhibited little variability for inland wetlands and decreased for coastal wetlands with increasing latitude. The contrasting ofCO2fluxes between inland and coastal wetlands globally can improve our understanding of the roles of wetlands in the global C cycle. Our results also have implications for informing wetland management and climate change policymaking, for example, the efforts being made by international organizations and enterprises to restore coastal wetlands for enhancing blue carbon sinks.

    more » « less
  5. Net ecosystem carbon balance is a comprehensive assessment of ecosystem function that can test restoration effectiveness. Coastal peatlands are globally important carbon sinks that are vulnerable to carbon loss with saltwater intrusion. It is uncertain how wetland carbon stocks and fluxes change during freshwater restoration following exposure to saltwater and elevated nutrients. We restored freshwater to sawgrass (Cladium jamaicense) peat monoliths from freshwater marshes of the Everglades (Florida, U.S.A.) that had previously been exposed to elevated salinity (approximately9 ppt) and phosphorus (P) loading (1 g P m−2year−1) in wetland mesocosms. We quantified changes in water and soil physicochemistry, plant and soil carbon and nutrient standing stocks, and net ecosystem productivity during restoration. Added freshwater immediately reduced porewater salinity from >8 to approximately 2 ppt, but elevated porewater dissolved organic carbon persisted. Above‐ and belowground biomass, leaf P concentrations, and instantaneous rates of gross ecosystem productivity (GEP) and ecosystem respiration (ER) remained elevated from prior added P. Modeled monthly GEP and ER were higher in marshes with saltwater and P legacies, resulting in negative net ecosystem productivities that were up to 12× lower than controls. Leaf litter breakdown rates and litter P concentrations were 2× higher in marshes with legacies of added saltwater and P. Legacies of saltwater and P on carbon loss persisted despite freshwater restoration, but recovery was greatest for freshwater marshes exposed to saltwater alone. Our results suggest that restoration in nutrient‐limited freshwater wetlands exposed to saltwater intrusion and nutrient enrichment is a slow process.

    more » « less