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Creators/Authors contains: "Kirwan, Matthew L."

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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2024
  2. Coastal ecosystems represent a disproportionately large but vulnerable global carbon sink. Sea-level-driven tidal wetland degradation and upland forest mortality threaten coastal carbon pools, but responses of the broader coastal landscape to interacting facets of climate change remain poorly understood. Here, we use 36 years of satellite observations across the mid-Atlantic sea-level rise hotspot to show that climate change has actually increased the amount of carbon stored in the biomass of coastal ecosystems despite substantial areal loss. We find that sea-level-driven reductions in wetland and low-lying forest biomass were largely confined to areas less than 2 m above sea level, whereas the otherwise warmer and wetter climate led to an increase in the biomass of adjacent upland forests. Integrated across the entire coastal landscape, climate-driven upland greening offset sea-level-driven biomass losses, such that the net impact of climate change was to increase the amount of carbon stored in coastal vegetation. These results point to a fundamental decoupling between upland and wetland carbon trends that can only be understood by integrating observations across traditional ecosystem boundaries. This holistic approach may provide a template for quantifying carbon–climate feedbacks and other aspects of coastal change that extend beyond sea-level rise alone.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 6, 2023
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