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This content will become publicly available on September 15, 2024

Title: Compensatory Mechanisms Absorb Regional Carbon Losses Within a Rapidly Shifting Coastal Mosaic
Coastal landscapes are naturally shifting mosaics of distinct ecosystems that are rapidly migratingwith sealevel rise. Previous work illustrates that transitions among individual ecosystems have disproportionate impacts on the global carbon cycle, but this cannot address nonlinear interactions between multiple ecosystems that potentially cascade across the coastal landscape. Here, we synthesize carbon stocks, accumulation rates, and regional land cover data over 36 years (1984 and 2020) for a variety of ecosystems across a large portion of the rapidly transgressing mid-Atlantic coast. The coastal landscape of the Virginia Eastern Shore consists of temperate forest, salt marsh, seagrass beds, barrier islands, and coastal lagoons. We found that rapid losses and gains within individual ecosystems largely offset each other, which resulted in relatively stable areas for the different ecosystems, and a 4% (196.9 Gg C) reduction in regional carbon storage. However, new metrics of carbon replacement times indicated that it would take only 7 years of carbon accumulation in surviving ecosystems to compensate this loss. Our findings reveal unique compensatory mechanisms at the scale of entire landscapes that quickly absorb losses and facilitate increased regional carbon storage in the face of historical and contemporary sea-level rise. However, the strength of these compensatory mechanisms may diminish as climate change exacerbates the magnitude of carbon losses.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1832221 2012670 1654374
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Subject(s) / Keyword(s):
["coastal carbon dynamics","ecosystem transition","ghost forest","blue carbon","landscape scale\ncarbon storage","compensatory mechanisms"]
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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