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Creators/Authors contains: "Langston, Amy K."

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  1. Abstract

    The impacts of climate change on ecosystems are manifested in how organisms respond to episodic and continuous stressors. The conversion of coastal forests to salt marshes represents a prominent example of ecosystem state change, driven by the continuous stress of sea‐level rise (press), and episodic storms (pulse). Here, we measured the rooting dimension and fall direction of 143 windthrown eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) trees in a rapidly retreating coastal forest in Chesapeake Bay (USA). We found that tree roots were distributed asymmetrically away from the leading edge of soil salinization and towards freshwater sources. The length, number, and circumference of roots were consistently higher in the upslope direction than downslope direction, suggesting an active morphological adaptation to sea‐level rise and salinity stress. Windthrown trees consistently fell in the upslope direction regardless of aspect and prevailing wind direction, suggesting that asymmetric rooting destabilized standing trees, and reduced their ability to withstand high winds. Together, these observations help explain curious observations of coastal forest resilience, and highlight an interesting nonadditive response to climate change, where adaptation to press stressors increases vulnerability to pulse stressors.

  2. Abstract

    An accelerating global rate of sea level rise (SLR), coupled with direct human impacts to coastal watersheds and shorelines, threatens the continued survival of salt marshes. We developed a new landscape‐scale numerical model of salt marsh evolution and applied it to marshes in the Plum Island Estuary (Massachusetts, U.S.A.), a sediment‐deficient system bounded by steep uplands. To capture complexities of vertical accretion across the marsh platform, we employed a novel approach that incorporates spatially variable suspended sediment concentrations and biomass of multiple plant species as functions of elevation and distance from sediment sources. The model predicts a stable areal extent of Plum Island marshes for a variety of SLR scenarios through 2100, where limited marsh drowning is compensated by limited marsh migration into adjacent uplands. Nevertheless, the model predicts widespread conversion of high marsh vegetation to low marsh vegetation, and accretion deficits that indicate eventual marsh drowning. Although sediment‐deficient marshes bounded by steep uplands are considered extremely vulnerable to SLR, our results highlight that marshes with high elevation capital can maintain their areal extent for decades to centuries even under conditions in which they will inevitably drown.