This content will become publicly available on May 11, 2024
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- Estuaries and Coasts
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- ["Blue carbon","Submerged aquatic vegetation","Latitudinal gradients","Decomposition","Nutrient limitation","Sediment"]
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- National Science Foundation
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The organic carbon (Corg) stored in seagrass meadows is globally significant and could be relevant in strategies to mitigate increasing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. Most of that stored Corg is in the soils that underlie the seagrasses. We explored how seagrass and soil characteristics vary among seagrass meadows across the geographic range of turtlegrass (Thalassia testudinum) with a goal of illuminating the processes controlling soil organic carbon (Corg) storage spanning 23° of latitude. Seagrass abundance (percent cover, biomass, and canopy height) varied by over an order of magnitude across sites, and we found high variability in soil characteristics, with Corg ranging from 0.08 to 12.59% dry weight. Seagrass abundance was a good predictor of the Corg stocks in surficial soils, and the relative importance of seagrass-derived soil Corg increased as abundance increased. These relationships suggest that first-order estimates of surficial soil Corg stocks can be made by measuring seagrass abundance and applying a linear transfer function. The relative availability of the nutrients N and P to support plant growth was also correlated with soil Corg stocks. Stocks were lower at N-limited sites than at P-limited ones, but the importance of seagrass-derived organic matter to soil Corg stocks was not a function of nutrient limitation status. This finding seemed at odds with our observation that labile standard substrates decomposed more slowly at N-limited than at P-limited sites, since even though decomposition rates were 55% lower at N-limited sites, less Corg was accumulating in the soils. The dependence of Corg stocks and decomposition rates on nutrient availability suggests that eutrophication is likely to exert a strong influence on carbon storage in seagrass meadows.more » « less
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 large 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.more » « less
Druzhinina, Irina S. (Ed.)ABSTRACT Trees associating with different mycorrhizas often differ in their effects on litter decomposition, nutrient cycling, soil organic matter (SOM) dynamics, and plant-soil interactions. For example, due to differences between arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) and ectomycorrhizal (ECM) tree leaf and root traits, ECM-associated soil has lower rates of C and N cycling and lower N availability than AM-associated soil. These observations suggest that many groups of nonmycorrhizal fungi should be affected by the mycorrhizal associations of dominant trees through controls on nutrient availability. To test this overarching hypothesis, we explored the influence of predominant forest mycorrhizal type and mineral N availability on soil fungal communities using next-generation amplicon sequencing. Soils from four temperate hardwood forests in southern Indiana, United States, were studied; three forests formed a natural gradient of mycorrhizal dominance (100% AM tree basal area to 100% ECM basal area), while the fourth forest contained a factorial experiment testing long-term N addition in both dominant mycorrhizal types. We found that overall fungal diversity, as well as the diversity and relative abundance of plant pathogenic and saprotrophic fungi, increased with greater AM tree dominance. Additionally, tree community mycorrhizal associations explained more variation in fungal community composition than abiotic variables, including soil depth, SOM content, nitrification rate, and mineral N availability. Our findings suggest that tree mycorrhizal associations may be good predictors of the diversity, composition, and functional potential of soil fungal communities in temperate hardwood forests. These observations help explain differing biogeochemistry and community dynamics found in forest stands dominated by differing mycorrhizal types. IMPORTANCE Our work explores how differing mycorrhizal associations of temperate hardwood trees (i.e., arbuscular [AM] versus ectomycorrhizal [ECM] associations) affect soil fungal communities by altering the diversity and relative abundance of saprotrophic and plant-pathogenic fungi along natural gradients of mycorrhizal dominance. Because temperate hardwood forests are predicted to become more AM dominant with climate change, studies examining soil communities along mycorrhizal gradients are necessary to understand how these global changes may alter future soil fungal communities and their functional potential. Ours, along with other recent studies, identify possible global trends in the frequency of specific fungal functional groups responsible for nutrient cycling and plant-soil interactions as they relate to mycorrhizal associations.more » « less
Global sea-level rise is transforming coastal ecosystems, especially freshwater wetlands, in part due to increased episodic or chronic saltwater exposure, leading to shifts in biogeochemistry, plant- and microbial communities, as well as ecological services. Yet, it is still difficult to predict how soil microbial communities respond to the saltwater exposure because of poorly understood microbial sensitivity within complex wetland soil microbial communities, as well as the high spatial and temporal heterogeneity of wetland soils and saltwater exposure. To address this, we first conducted a two-year survey of microbial community structure and bottom water chemistry in submerged surface soils from 14 wetland sites across the Florida Everglades. We identified ecosystem-specific microbial biomarker taxa primarily associated with variation in salinity. Bacterial, archaeal and fungal community composition differed between freshwater, mangrove, and marine seagrass meadow sites, irrespective of soil type or season. Especially, methanogens, putative denitrifying methanotrophs and sulfate reducers shifted in relative abundance and/or composition between wetland types. Methanogens and putative denitrifying methanotrophs declined in relative abundance from freshwater to marine wetlands, whereas sulfate reducers showed the opposite trend. A four-year experimental simulation of saltwater intrusion in a pristine freshwater site and a previously saltwater-impacted site corroborated the highest sensitivity and relative increase of sulfate reducers, as well as taxon-specific sensitivity of methanogens, in response to continuously pulsing of saltwater treatment. Collectively, these results suggest that besides increased salinity, saltwater-mediated increased sulfate availability leads to displacement of methanogens by sulfate reducers even at low or temporal salt exposure. These changes of microbial composition could affect organic matter degradation pathways in coastal freshwater wetlands exposed to sea-level rise, with potential consequences, such as loss of stored soil organic carbon.more » « less
Increasing green turtle abundance will lead to increased grazing within seagrass habitats—ecosystems that are important for carbon sequestration and storage. However, it is not well understood how carbon dynamics in these ecosystems respond to grazing and whether a response differs among meadows or locations.
We measured seagrass ecosystem metabolism in grazed and ungrazed areas of
Thalassia testudinummeadows with established green turtle foraging areas across the Greater Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. We sampled meadows from five locations that differed in seagrass and environmental characteristics. Established meadows of the invasive seagrass Halophila stipulaceawere also present at two of these locations, and we measured ecosystem metabolism in these meadows for comparison to grazed and ungrazed areas of the native T. testudinum.
Across all individual sites, rates of net ecosystem production (NEP) ranged from 56% to 96% lower in grazed areas than ungrazed areas of
T. testudinummeadows. Rates of NEP were also strongly, positively correlated with above‐ground seagrass biomass across sites. While metabolic carbon capture rates were lower in grazed areas, heterotrophic respiration was not stimulated, and grazing therefore did not result in significant metabolic remineralization of carbon in these meadows. NEP in H. stipulaceameadows was similar to rates in T. testudinummeadows at all three sites, suggesting that metabolic carbon capture may remain similar in Caribbean meadows where this invasive seagrass is replacing native species. Synthesis. Our results show that there is a consistent response in metabolic carbon dynamics to green turtle grazing in T. testudinummeadows across the Greater Caribbean region. An increase in grazing will not likely stimulate remineralization of carbon as these important habitats are returned to a natural grazed state.