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This content will become publicly available on December 15, 2024

Title: Increased Frequency of Sediment Heatwaves in a Virginia Seagrass Meadow
Coastal marine heatwaves have destructive and lasting impacts on foundational species 13 and are increasing in frequency, duration, and magnitude. High atmospheric temperatures are 14 often associated with marine heatwaves (MHW) which are defined as 5-days of water 15 temperatures above a seasonally varying 90th percentile threshold. In this study we consider the 16 prevalence of MHW propagation into surficial sediments to cause sediment heatwaves (SHW). 17 Within a shallow, subtidal seagrass meadow in Virginia, USA, sediment temperature was 18 measured at hourly intervals at a depth of 5 cm between June 2020-October 2022 at the meadow 19 edge and central meadow interior. The observed sediment temperature, along with a 29-year 20 record of water temperature and water level was used to develop a sediment temperature model 21 for each location. Modeled sediment temperatures were used to identify sediment heatwaves that 22 may thermally stress belowground seagrass. At both meadow locations, sediment heatwave 23 frequency increased at a rate twice that of MHWs in the average global open ocean, coinciding 24 with a 172% increase in the annual number of SHW days, from 11 to 30 days year-1 between 25 1994-2022. Sediment heatwaves at both meadow locations co-occurred with a MHW 79-81% of 26 the time, with nearly all SHWs having a zero day lag. The top 10% most extreme MHWs and 27 SHWs occurred between November and April when thermal stress to seagrass was unlikely. In 28 June 2015 a SHW co-occurred with an anomalously long duration MHW that was associated 29 with a 90% decline in seagrass from this system, suggesting that SHWs may have contributed to 30 the observed seagrass loss. These results document heatwave propagation across the pelagic-31 sediment interface which likely occur broadly in shallow systems with impacts to critical coastal 32 ecosystem processes and species dynamics.  more » « less
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Journal Name:
Estuaries and Coasts
Subject(s) / Keyword(s):
["Seagrass","water temperature"]
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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