Sea level rise (SLR) is threatening coastal marshes, leading to large‐scale marsh loss in several micro‐tidal systems. Early recognition of marsh vulnerability to SLR is critical in these systems to aid managers to take appropriate restoration or mitigation measures. However, it is not clear if current marsh vulnerability indicators correctly assess long‐term stability of the marsh system. In this study, two indicators of marsh stress were studied: (i) the skewness of the marsh elevation distribution, and (ii) the abundance of codominant species in mixtures. We combined high‐precision elevation measurements (GPS), LiDAR imagery, vegetation surveys and water level measurements to study these indicators in an organogenic micro‐tidal system (Blackwater River, Maryland, USA), where large‐scale historical conversion from marshes to shallow ponds resulted in a gradient of increasing marsh loss. The two indicators reveal increasingly stressed marshes along the marsh loss gradient, but suggest that the field site with the most marsh loss seems to experience less stress. For the latter site, previous research indicates that wind waves generated on interior marsh ponds contribute to lateral erosion of surrounding marsh edges and hence marsh loss. The eroded marsh sediment might temporarily provide the remaining marshes with the necessary sediment to keep up with relative SLR. However, this is only a short‐term alleviation, as lateral marsh edge erosion and sediment export lead to severe marsh loss in the long term. Our findings indicate that marsh elevation skewness and the abundance of codominant species in mixtures can be used to supplement existing marsh stress indicators, but that additional indices such as fetch length and the sediment budget should be included to account for lateral marsh erosion and sediment export and to correctly assess long‐term stability of micro‐tidal marshes. © 2020 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Salt marsh assessments focus on vertical metrics such as accretion or lateral metrics such as open‐water conversion, without exploration of how the dimensions are related. We exploited a novel geospatial data set to explore how elevation is related to the unvegetated‐vegetated marsh ratio (UVVR), a lateral metric, across individual marsh “units” within four estuarine‐marsh systems. We find that elevation scales consistently with the UVVR across systems, with lower elevation units demonstrating more open‐water conversion and higher UVVRs. A normalized elevation‐UVVR relationship converges across systems near the system‐mean elevation and a UVVR of 0.1, a critical threshold identified by prior studies. This indicates that open‐water conversion becomes a dominant lateral instability process at a relatively conservative elevation threshold. We then integrate the UVVR and elevation to yield lifespan estimates, which demonstrate that higher elevation marshes are more resilient to internal deterioration, with an order‐of‐magnitude longer lifespan than predicted for lower elevation marshes.more » « less
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- DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
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- Journal Name:
- Geophysical Research Letters
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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Intertidal marshes develop between uplands and mudflats, and develop vegetation zonation, via biogeomorphic feedbacks. Is the spatial configuration of vegetation and channels also biogeomorphically organized at the intermediate, marsh‐scale? We used high‐resolution aerial photographs and a decision‐tree procedure to categorize marsh vegetation patterns and channel geometries for 113 tidal marshes in San Francisco Bay estuary and assessed these patterns' relations to site characteristics. Interpretation was further informed by generalized linear mixed models using pattern‐quantifying metrics from object‐based image analysis to predict vegetation and channel pattern complexity. Vegetation pattern complexity was significantly related to marsh salinity but independent of marsh age and elevation. Channel complexity was significantly related to marsh age but independent of salinity and elevation. Vegetation pattern complexity and channel complexity were significantly related, forming two prevalent biogeomorphic states: complex versus simple vegetation‐and‐channel configurations. That this correspondence held across marsh ages (decades to millennia) and at both high and low marsh elevations suggests the following: (1) marshes of shared physiography can exhibit highly variable ecosystem structures; (2) young marshes are not necessarily simple nor necessarily develop vegetation complexity with age and elevation; (3) Bay marshes should continue to exhibit both simple/complex configurations in the future despite a likely shift toward low marshes; (4) salt marshes may tend to occupy two alternative stable states characterized by linked complexity in vegetation and channel organization. This final point may help fill the gap at the marsh scale between biogeomorphic models explaining marsh occurrence at larger coastal and smaller vegetation patch scales. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Coastal communities increasingly invest in natural and nature‐based features (e.g., living shorelines) as a strategy to protect shorelines and enhance coastal resilience. Tidal marshes are a common component of these strategies because of their capacity to reduce wave energy and storm surge impacts. Performance metrics of restoration success for living shorelines tend to focus on how the physical structure of the created marsh enhances shoreline protection via proper elevation and marsh plant presence. These metrics do not fully evaluate the level of marsh ecosystem development. In particular, the presence of key marsh bivalve species can indicate the capability of the marsh to provide non‐protective services of value, such as water quality improvement and habitat provision. We observed an unexpected low to no abundance of the filter‐feeding ribbed mussel,
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Site description. This data package consists of data obtained from sampling surface soil (the 0-7.6 cm depth profile) in black mangrove (Avicennia germinans) dominated forest and black needlerush (Juncus roemerianus) saltmarsh along the Gulf of Mexico coastline in peninsular west-central Florida, USA. This location has a subtropical climate with mean daily temperatures ranging from 15.4 °C in January to 27.8 °C in August, and annual precipitation of 1336 mm. Precipitation falls as rain primarily between June and September. Tides are semi-diurnal, with 0.57 m median amplitudes during the year preceding sampling (U.S. NOAA National Ocean Service, Clearwater Beach, Florida, station 8726724). Sea-level rise is 4.0 ± 0.6 mm per year (1973-2020 trend, mean ± 95 % confidence interval, NOAA NOS Clearwater Beach station). The A. germinans mangrove zone is either adjacent to water or fringed on the seaward side by a narrow band of red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle). A near-monoculture of J. roemerianus is often adjacent to and immediately landward of the A. germinans zone. The transition from the mangrove to the J. roemerianus zone is variable in our study area. An abrupt edge between closed-canopy mangrove and J. roemerianus monoculture may extend for up to several hundred meters in some locations, while other stretches of ecotone present a gradual transition where smaller, widely spaced trees are interspersed into the herbaceous marsh. Juncus roemerianus then extends landward to a high marsh patchwork of succulent halophytes (including Salicornia bigellovi, Sesuvium sp., and Batis maritima), scattered dwarf mangrove, and salt pans, followed in turn by upland vegetation that includes Pinus sp. and Serenoa repens. Field design and sample collection. We established three study sites spaced at approximately 5 km intervals along the western coastline of the central Florida peninsula. The sites consisted of the Salt Springs (28.3298°, -82.7274°), Energy Marine Center (28.2903°, -82.7278°), and Green Key (28.2530°, -82.7496°) sites on the Gulf of Mexico coastline in Pasco County, Florida, USA. At each site, we established three plot pairs, each consisting of one saltmarsh plot and one mangrove plot. Plots were 50 m^2 in size. Plots pairs within a site were separated by 230-1070 m, and the mangrove and saltmarsh plots composing a pair were 70-170 m apart. All plot pairs consisted of directly adjacent patches of mangrove forest and J. roemerianus saltmarsh, with the mangrove forests exhibiting a closed canopy and a tree architecture (height 4-6 m, crown width 1.5-3 m). Mangrove plots were located at approximately the midpoint between the seaward edge (water-mangrove interface) and landward edge (mangrove-marsh interface) of the mangrove zone. Saltmarsh plots were located 20-25 m away from any mangrove trees and into the J. roemerianus zone (i.e., landward from the mangrove-marsh interface). Plot pairs were coarsely similar in geomorphic setting, as all were located on the Gulf of Mexico coastline, rather than within major sheltering formations like Tampa Bay, and all plot pairs fit the tide-dominated domain of the Woodroffe classification (Woodroffe, 2002, "Coasts: Form, Process and Evolution", Cambridge University Press), given their conspicuous semi-diurnal tides. There was nevertheless some geomorphic variation, as some plot pairs were directly open to the Gulf of Mexico while others sat behind keys and spits or along small tidal creeks. Our use of a plot-pair approach is intended to control for this geomorphic variation. Plot center elevations (cm above mean sea level, NAVD 88) were estimated by overlaying the plot locations determined with a global positioning system (Garmin GPS 60, Olathe, KS, USA) on a LiDAR-derived bare-earth digital elevation model (Dewberry, Inc., 2019). The digital elevation model had a vertical accuracy of ± 10 cm (95 % CI) and a horizontal accuracy of ± 116 cm (95 % CI). Soil samples were collected via coring at low tide in June 2011. From each plot, we collected a composite soil sample consisting of three discrete 5.1 cm diameter soil cores taken at equidistant points to 7.6 cm depth. Cores were taken by tapping a sleeve into the soil until its top was flush with the soil surface, sliding a hand under the core, and lifting it up. Cores were then capped and transferred on ice to our laboratory at the University of South Florida (Tampa, Florida, USA), where they were combined in plastic zipper bags, and homogenized by hand into plot-level composite samples on the day they were collected. A damp soil subsample was immediately taken from each composite sample to initiate 1 y incubations for determination of active C and N (see below). The remainder of each composite sample was then placed in a drying oven (60 °C) for 1 week with frequent mixing of the soil to prevent aggregation and liberate water. Organic wetland soils are sometimes dried at 70 °C, however high drying temperatures can volatilize non-water liquids and oxidize and decompose organic matter, so 50 °C is also a common drying temperature for organic soils (Gardner 1986, "Methods of Soil Analysis: Part 1", Soil Science Society of America); we accordingly chose 60 °C as a compromise between sufficient water removal and avoidance of non-water mass loss. Bulk density was determined as soil dry mass per core volume (adding back the dry mass equivalent of the damp subsample removed prior to drying). Dried subsamples were obtained for determination of soil organic matter (SOM), mineral texture composition, and extractable and total carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) within the following week. Sample analyses. A dried subsample was apportioned from each composite sample to determine SOM as mass loss on ignition at 550 °C for 4 h. After organic matter was removed from soil via ignition, mineral particle size composition was determined using a combination of wet sieving and density separation in 49 mM (3 %) sodium hexametaphosphate ((NaPO_3)_6) following procedures in Kettler et al. (2001, Soil Science Society of America Journal 65, 849-852). The percentage of dry soil mass composed of silt and clay particles (hereafter, fines) was calculated as the mass lost from dispersed mineral soil after sieving (0.053 mm mesh sieve). Fines could have been slightly underestimated if any clay particles were burned off during the preceding ignition of soil. An additional subsample was taken from each composite sample to determine extractable N and organic C concentrations via 0.5 M potassium sulfate (K_2SO_4) extractions. We combined soil and extractant (ratio of 1 g dry soil:5 mL extractant) in plastic bottles, reciprocally shook the slurry for 1 h at 120 rpm, and then gravity filtered it through Fisher G6 (1.6 μm pore size) glass fiber filters, followed by colorimetric detection of nitrite (NO_2^-) + nitrate (NO_3^-) and ammonium (NH_4^+) in the filtrate (Hood Nowotny et al., 2010,Soil Science Society of America Journal 74, 1018-1027) using a microplate spectrophotometer (Biotek Epoch, Winooski, VT, USA). Filtrate was also analyzed for dissolved organic C (referred to hereafter as extractable organic C) and total dissolved N via combustion and oxidation followed by detection of the evolved CO_2 and N oxide gases on a Formacs HT TOC/TN analyzer (Skalar, Breda, The Netherlands). Extractable organic N was then computed as total dissolved N in filtrate minus extractable mineral N (itself the sum of extractable NH_4-N and NO_2-N + NO_3-N). We determined soil total C and N from dried, milled subsamples subjected to elemental analysis (ECS 4010, Costech, Inc., Valencia, CA, USA) at the University of South Florida Stable Isotope Laboratory. Median concentration of inorganic C in unvegetated surface soil at our sites is 0.5 % of soil mass (Anderson, 2019, Univ. of South Florida M.S. thesis via methods in Wang et al., 2011, Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 174, 241-257). Inorganic C concentrations are likely even lower in our samples from under vegetation, where organic matter would dilute the contribution of inorganic C to soil mass. Nevertheless, the presence of a small inorganic C pool in our soils may be counted in the total C values we report. Extractable organic C is necessarily of organic C origin given the method (sparging with HCl) used in detection. Active C and N represent the fractions of organic C and N that are mineralizable by soil microorganisms under aerobic conditions in long-term soil incubations. To quantify active C and N, 60 g of field-moist soil were apportioned from each composite sample, placed in a filtration apparatus, and incubated in the dark at 25 °C and field capacity moisture for 365 d (as in Lewis et al., 2014, Ecosphere 5, art59). Moisture levels were maintained by frequently weighing incubated soil and wetting them up to target mass. Daily CO_2 flux was quantified on 29 occasions at 0.5-3 week intervals during the incubation period (with shorter intervals earlier in the incubation), and these per day flux rates were integrated over the 365 d period to compute an estimate of active C. Observations of per day flux were made by sealing samples overnight in airtight chambers fitted with septa and quantifying headspace CO_2 accumulation by injecting headspace samples (obtained through the septa via needle and syringe) into an infrared gas analyzer (PP Systems EGM 4, Amesbury, MA, USA). To estimate active N, each incubated sample was leached with a C and N free, 35 psu solution containing micronutrients (Nadelhoffer, 1990, Soil Science Society of America Journal 54, 411-415) on 19 occasions at increasing 1-6 week intervals during the 365 d incubation, and then extracted in 0.5 M K_2SO_4 at the end of the incubation in order to remove any residual mineral N. Active N was then quantified as the total mass of mineral N leached and extracted. Mineral N in leached and extracted solutions was detected as NH_4-N and NO_2-N + NO_3-N via colorimetry as above. This incubation technique precludes new C and N inputs and persistently leaches mineral N, forcing microorganisms to meet demand by mineralizing existing pools, and thereby directly assays the potential activity of soil organic C and N pools present at the time of soil sampling. Because this analysis commences with disrupting soil physical structure, it is biased toward higher estimates of active fractions. Calculations. Non-mobile C and N fractions were computed as total C and N concentrations minus the extractable and active fractions of each element. This data package reports surface-soil constituents (moisture, fines, SOM, and C and N pools and fractions) in both gravimetric units (mass constituent / mass soil) and areal units (mass constituent / soil surface area integrated through 7.6 cm soil depth, the depth of sampling). Areal concentrations were computed as X × D × 7.6, where X is the gravimetric concentration of a soil constituent, D is soil bulk density (g dry soil / cm^3), and 7.6 is the sampling depth in cm.more » « less