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  1. Abstract The fate of coastal ecosystems depends on their ability to keep pace with sea-level rise—yet projections of accretion widely ignore effects of engineering fauna. Here, we quantify effects of the mussel , Geukensia demissa , on southeastern US saltmarsh accretion. Multi-season and -tidal stage surveys, in combination with field experiments, reveal that deposition is 2.8-10.7-times greater on mussel aggregations than any other marsh location. Our Delft-3D-BIVALVES model further predicts that mussels drive substantial changes to both the magnitude (±<0.1 cm·yr −1 ) and spatial patterning of accretion at marsh domain scales. We explore the validity of model predictions with a multi-year creekshed mussel manipulation of >200,000 mussels and find that this faunal engineer drives far greater changes to relative marsh accretion rates than predicted (±>0.4 cm·yr −1 ). Thus, we highlight an urgent need for empirical, experimental, and modeling work to resolve the importance of faunal engineers in directly and indirectly modifying the persistence of coastal ecosystems globally. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
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  4. Abstract

    Interest in leveraging suspension feeders, such as marine bivalves, to exert top‐down control on organic matter (OM) loading in estuaries is gaining momentum. Not only can these faunal engineers alleviate the consequences of nutrient pollution, but they may also bolster the critical blue carbon services provided by coastal ecosystems—a potential dual, mitigating effect on cultural eutrophication and climate change. Ribbed mussels,Geukensia demissa, offer a useful model for assessing faunally driven carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) processes in these systems and their relationships with faunal density. Combining bulk geochemical analyses with Bayesian stable isotope mixing model frameworks (MixSIAR), we quantified the effect of mussels on the source and amount of organic C and N deposited to the benthic floor (i.e., sedimentation), accumulated in surface sediments, and stored in abovegroundSpartina alterniflorain Georgia salt marshes. Relative to areas without mussels, mussel presence shifted the source of deposited and accumulated OM to a more allochthonous makeup; amplified the amount of deposited, but not accumulated, allochthonous and autochthonous OM; and enhanced aboveground storage of C and N. Both sources of OM accumulated in sediments as well as standing stocks of C and N were highly and positively correlated with local mussel density (ind. m−2) but unrelated to neighboring mussel density (ind. ∼25 m−2) in adjacent, non‐mussel areas. This work provides new evidence that suspension feeders, through their faunal engineering activities, can interact powerfully and synergistically with primary producers to enhance the blue carbon services of marshes and counteract coastal eutrophication.

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  5. Abstract Aims

    Latitudinal gradients in plant communities are well studied, yet how these fundamental ecological patterns influence ecosystem recovery after extreme weather events remains largely unknown. In coastal foredunes, we investigated how the cover of a key dune‐building grass (Uniola paniculata), vegetation diversity and vegetation cover vary along a short latitudinal gradient during recovery from hurricane disturbance.


    Southeastern USA.


    We surveyed 24 sites, from central Florida to north Georgia (>400 km), four times over 18 months. General linear mixed‐effect models were used to unravel patterns of vegetation responses across latitude.


    Vegetation properties showed countervailing patterns across the latitudinal gradient. While vegetation richness, functional diversity and total cover generally declined,Uniolacover increased with increasing latitude. Further, the latitude–richness relationship strengthened while the latitude–functional diversity relationship was invariant with increasing time since the hurricane disturbance. Meanwhile, the latitude–Uniolaassociation was seasonally dependent and strongest in the summer. Latitude also influenced diversity–cover relationships: vegetation cover was positively related to species richness at lower latitudes, while it was positively associated with functional diversity only at northern sites. We found no relationship between species richness or functional diversity and increases in cover between time steps; however, recruitment of new species and functional groups was associated with increases in vegetation cover between time steps at northern sites.


    Our study highlights the temporal dynamism and contrasting patterns along latitudinal gradients exhibited by key engineering species and overall plant diversity in foredunes — a crucial line of coastal protection — exposed to hurricane disturbances. These results suggest a need for greater integration of latitudinal and diversity effects into our understanding of coastal dune resilience. They also highlight the potential benefits of enhancing dune plant biodiversity, particularly in areas where the dune‐building grasses that are classically employed in restoration (e.g.,Uniola) are unfavoured, to accelerate the re‐establishment of well‐vegetated dunes.

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  6. 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. 
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