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  1. Abstract

    Tropicalization is a phenomenon that is changing the structure of ecosystems around the world. Mangrove encroachment is a particular form of tropicalization that may have cascading consequences for resident fauna in subtropical coastal wetlands. There is a knowledge gap regarding the extent of interactions between basal consumers and mangroves along mangrove range edges and the consequences of these novel interactions for consumers. This study focuses on the key coastal wetland consumers,Littoraria irrorata(marsh periwinkle) andUca rapax(mudflat fiddler crabs), and their interactions with encroachingAvicennia germinans(black mangrove) in the Gulf of Mexico, USA. In food preference assays,Littorariaavoided consumingAvicenniaand selectively ingested leaf tissue from a common marsh grass,Spartina alterniflora(smooth cordgrass), a preference that was also previously documented inUca. The quality ofAvicenniaas a food source was determined by measuring the energy storage of consumers that had interacted with eitherAvicenniaor marsh plants in the lab and the field.LittorariaandUcaboth stored ~10% less energy when interacting withAvicennia, despite their different feeding behaviors and physiologies. The negative consequences of mangrove encroachment for these species at the individual level suggest that there may be negative population‐level effects as encroachment continues. Many studies have documented shifts in floral and faunal communities following mangrove replacement of salt marsh vegetation, but this study is the first to identify physiological responses that may be contributing to these shifts.

     
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  2. 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. 
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