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  1. Abstract

    Climate change is accelerating sea‐level rise and saltwater intrusion in coastal regions world‐wide and interacting with large‐scale changes in species composition in coastal wetlands. Quantifying macrophyte litter breakdown along freshwater‐to‐marine coastal gradients is needed to predict how carbon stores will respond to shifts in both macrophyte communities and water chemistry under changing environmental conditions.

    To test the interactive drivers of changing species identity and water chemistry, we performed a reciprocal transplant of four macrophyte litter species in seven sites along freshwater‐to‐marine gradients in the Florida Coastal Everglades. We measured surface water chemistry (dissolved organic carbon, total nitrogen and total phosphorus), litter chemistry (% nitrogen, % phosphorus, change in N:P molar ratio, % cellulose and % lignin as proxies for recalcitrance) and litter breakdown rates (k/degree‐day).

    Direct effects of salinity and surface water nutrients were the strongest drivers ofk, but unexpectedly, litter chemistry did not correlate with litterk. However, salinity strongly correlated with changes in litter chemistry, whereby litter incubated in brackish and marine wetlands was more labile and gained more phosphorus compared with litter in freshwater marshes. Our results suggest that litterkin coastal wetlands is explained by species‐specific interactions among water and litter chemistries. Water nutrient availability was an important predictor of breakdown rates across species, but breakdown rates were only explained by the carbon recalcitrance of litter in the species with the slowest breakdown (Cladium jamaicense), indicating the importance of carbon structure, and species identity on breakdown rates.

    Synthesis. In oligotrophic ecosystems, nutrients are often the primary driver of organic matter breakdown. However, we found that variation in macrophyte breakdown rates in oligotrophic coastal wetlands was also explained by salinity and associated seawater chemistry, emphasising the need to understand how saltwater intrusion will alter organic matter processing in wetlands. Our results suggest that marine subsidies associated with sea‐level rise have the potential to accelerate leaf litter breakdown. The increase in breakdown rates could either be buffered or increase further as sea‐level rise also shifts macrophyte community composition to more or less recalcitrant species.

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  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2024
  3. Abstract

    Degradation of wetland ecosystems results from loss of hydrologic connectivity, nutrient enrichment, and altered fire regimes, among other factors. It is uncertain how drivers of wetland ecosystem processes and wetland vegetation communities interact in reversing the ecological trajectory from degraded to restored conditions. We analyzed biogeochemical and vegetation data collected in wetlands of the Florida Everglades at the start of (2015) and during (2018 and 2021) the initial stages of rehydration. Our objectives were to analyze the allocation of carbon and nutrients among ecosystem compartments and correlated trajectories of vegetation community change following rehydration, to identify the drivers of change, including fire, and analyze macrophyte species‐specific responses to drivers. We expected to see changes in vegetation toward more hydric communities that would differ based on wetland baseline conditions and the magnitude of the hydrologic change. During the study period, both length of inundation and surface water depth increased throughout wetlands in the region, and four fires occurred, which affected 51% of the sampling locations. We observed biogeochemical shifts in the wetland landscape, driven by both hydrology and fire. Total phosphorus concentrations in soil and flocculent detrital material decreased, while soil carbon:phosphorus and nitrogen:phosphorus mass ratios increased at sites further away from water management infrastructure. Transitions in vegetation communities were driven by an increase in hydroperiods and by the distinct changes in nutrient concentrations or soil stoichiometric ratios in each subregion. The abundance of macrophyte species typical of short‐hydroperiod prairies strongly decreased, while dominant long‐hydroperiod species, such asEleocharis cellulosa, expanded. Fire facilitated the expansion of thickly vegetated plumes of invasiveTyphaat sites close to the water inflow sources. Overall, restored hydrology shifted vegetation community composition toward higher abundance of long‐hydroperiod species within six years. In contrast, removal of invasive vegetation controlled by soil phosphorus concentrations will likely require long‐term and interactive restoration strategies.

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  4. abstract Coastal ecosystems play a disproportionately large role in society, and climate change is altering their ecological structure and function, as well as their highly valued goods and services. In the present article, we review the results from decade-scale research on coastal ecosystems shaped by foundation species (e.g., coral reefs, kelp forests, coastal marshes, seagrass meadows, mangrove forests, barrier islands) to show how climate change is altering their ecological attributes and services. We demonstrate the value of site-based, long-term studies for quantifying the resilience of coastal systems to climate forcing, identifying thresholds that cause shifts in ecological state, and investigating the capacity of coastal ecosystems to adapt to climate change and the biological mechanisms that underlie it. We draw extensively from research conducted at coastal ecosystems studied by the US Long Term Ecological Research Network, where long-term, spatially extensive observational data are coupled with shorter-term mechanistic studies to understand the ecological consequences of climate change. 
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  5. Planktonic microbial communities mediate many vital biogeochemical processes in wetland ecosystems, yet compared to other aquatic ecosystems, like oceans, lakes, rivers or estuaries, they remain relatively underexplored. Our study site, the Florida Everglades (USA)—a vast iconic wetland consisting of a slow-moving system of shallow rivers connecting freshwater marshes with coastal mangrove forests and seagrass meadows—is a highly threatened model ecosystem for studying salinity and nutrient gradients, as well as the effects of sea level rise and saltwater intrusion. This study provides the first high-resolution phylogenetic profiles of planktonic bacterial and eukaryotic microbial communities (using 16S and 18S rRNA gene amplicons) together with nutrient concentrations and environmental parameters at 14 sites along two transects covering two distinctly different drainages: the peat-based Shark River Slough (SRS) and marl-based Taylor Slough/Panhandle (TS/Ph). Both bacterial as well as eukaryotic community structures varied significantly along the salinity gradient. Although freshwater communities were relatively similar in both transects, bacterioplankton community composition at the ecotone (where freshwater and marine water mix) differed significantly. The most abundant taxa in the freshwater marshes include heterotrophic Polynucleobacter sp. and potentially phagotrophic cryptomonads of the genus Chilomonas, both of which could be key players in the transfer of detritus-based biomass to higher trophic levels. 
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  6. Abstract

    Streams store nutrients in standing stocks of organic matter (OM) and associated biologically sequestered elements. Unlike standing stocks of autotrophs, detritus is depleted by nutrient enrichment, potentially reducing areal storage of detritus‐associated nutrients. To test effects of nutrient‐loading on storage of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) by autotrophic and detrital‐pool compartments, we quantified the effects of 2 yr of continuous experimental N and P additions on fine benthic organic matter (FBOM), leaves, wood, and biofilms in five forest streams. Our design tested the relative strength of N vs. P on OM nutrient content, areal OM storage, and areal nutrient storage in OM types. Enrichment increased nutrient content of all OM types; %P increased more than %N in leaves, wood, and biofilms, but not FBOM. Biofilm %P and %N increased more than in all detrital types. Areal FBOM and leaf storage declined with nutrient enrichment. Biofilm standing stocks were generally higher with enrichment but were not related to the streamwater N and P gradients. Despite increased OM nutrient content, total areal nutrient storage in leaves and wood decreased due to reduced OM storage. Although annual nutrient storage was stabilized by FBOM, seasonal variation in nutrient storage increased with enrichment. Leaf‐associated nutrient storage was reduced in most seasons, whereas FBOM and biofilm nutrient storage increased in winter and spring, respectively, relative to pretreatment. Overall, the combined responses of all OM types to enrichment resulted in reduced storage and altered seasonal availability of carbon and nutrients, which has implications for consumers and downstream processes.

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  7. Dissolved organic matter (DOM) drives biogeochemical processes in aquatic ecosystems. Yet, how hydrologic restoration in nutrient‐enriched ecosystems changes DOM and the consequences of those changes for the carbon cycle remain unclear. To predict the consequences of hydrologic restoration on carbon cycling in restored wetlands, we need to understand how local environmental factors influence production, processing, and transport of DOM. We collected surface water samples along transects in restored peat (organic‐rich, macrophyte‐dominated) and marl (carbonate, periphyton‐dominated) freshwater marshes in the Everglades (Florida, U.S.A.) that varied in environmental factors (water depth, phosphorus [P] concentrations [water, macrophytes, periphyton, and soil], and primary producer biomass) to understand drivers of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations and DOM composition. Higher water depths led to a “greening” of DOM, due to increasing algal contributions, with decreasing concentrations of DOC in peat wetlands, and a “browning” of DOM, due to increasing humic contributions, with increasing DOC concentrations in marl wetlands. Soil total P was positively correlated with DOC concentrations and microbial contributions to DOM in peat wetlands, and periphyton total P was positively correlated with algal contributions to DOM in marl wetlands. Despite large variations in both vegetation biomass and periphyton biovolume across transects and sites, neither were predictors of DOC concentrations or DOM composition. Hydrologic restoration differentially alters DOM in peat and marl marshes and interacts with nutrient enrichment to shift proportions of green and brown contributions to surface water chemistry, which has the potential to modify wetland food webs, as well as the processing of carbon by micro‐organisms.

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