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  1. Although shell middens and mounds often occupy the same intertidal spaces as coastal wetlands, biophysical interactions between these cultural features and wetlands are under-investigated. To this end, our geoarchaeological and zooarchaeological research at three coastal archaeological sites within the Tampa Bay Estuary, USA, sought to understand the interactions between shell-bearing sites, sea-level rise, storms, and migrating wetland habitats. Percussion core transects document the accretion of mangrove peat atop intact shell midden, illustrating the ability of mangrove forests to encroach shell midden and preserve cultural material below. Landward wetland deposits are thicker and muddier than those along the seaward margin of the sites, suggesting that shell-bearing sites attenuate wave energy much like other shoreline stabilization structures. Differences in sedimentology, stratigraphy, and invertebrate species compositions highlight the variability in storm impacts between sites. Storm-driven depositional events are identified by medium-to-fine sand beds with high densities of fragmented shell and small intertidal zone snails. Geospatial analyses indicate that wetland encroachment is already occurring at 247 archaeological sites within the Tampa Bay Estuary. Approximately 100 additional archaeological sites currently located in upland habitats may provide topographic relief for migrating coastal wetlands in the future. We contend that shell middens and mounds constructed by Indigenous peoples are important components within estuarine mosaics, as they have been for millennia. We advocate for further collaboration between archaeologists and estuary managers and the inclusion of descendant communities to co-manage the future of their past. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 15, 2025
  2. Applying a coastal-geoarchaeological approach, we synthesize stratigraphic, sedimentological, mollusk-zooarchaeological, and radiometric datasets from recent excavations and sediment coring at Harbor Key (8MA15)—a shell-terraformed Native mound complex within Tampa Bay, on the central peninsular Gulf Coast of Florida. We significantly revise the chronological understanding of the site and place it among the relatively few early civic-ceremonial centers in the region. Analyses of submound contexts revealed that the early first millennium mound center was constructed atop a platform of sand and ex situ cultural shell deposits that were reworked during ancient storm landfalls around 2000 BP. We situate Harbor Key within a seascape-scale stratigraphic and paleoenvironmental framework and show that the shellworks comprise an artificial barrier protecting the leeward estuary basin (and productive inshore wetlands) from high-energy conditions of the open bay and swells from the Gulf of Mexico. The sedimentary and archaeological records attest to the long-term history of morphodynamic interaction between coastal processes and Indigenous shell terraforming in the region and suggest that early first millennium mound building in Tampa Bay was tied to the recognition and reuse of antecedent shellworks and the persistent management of encompassing cultural seascapes. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2024
  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2024
  4. Ecological regime shifts are expected to increase this century as climate change propagates cascading effects across ecosystems with coupled elements. Here, we demonstrate that the climate-driven salt marsh–to–mangrove transition does not occur in isolation but is linked to lesser-known oyster reef–to–mangrove regime shifts through the provision of mangrove propagules. Using aerial imagery spanning 82 y, we found that 83% of oyster reefs without any initial mangrove cover fully converted to mangrove islands and that mean (± SD) time to conversion was 29.1 ± 9.6 y. In situ assessments of mangrove islands suggest substantial changes in ecosystem structure during conversion, while radiocarbon dates of underlying reef formation indicate that such transitions are abrupt relative to centuries-old reefs. Rapid transition occurred following release from freezes below the red mangrove ( Rhizophora mangle ) physiological tolerance limit (−7.3 °C) and after adjacent marsh-to-mangrove conversion. Additional nonclimate-mediated drivers of ecosystem change were also identified, including oyster reef exposure to wind-driven waves. Coupling of regime shifts arises from the growing supply of mangrove propagules from preceding and adjacent marsh-to-mangrove conversion. Climate projections near the mangrove range limit on the Gulf coast of Florida suggest that regime shifts will begin to transform subtropical estuaries by 2070 if propagule supply keeps pace with predicted warming. Although it will become increasingly difficult to maintain extant oyster habitat with tropicalization, restoring oyster reefs in high-exposure settings or active removal of mangrove seedlings could slow the coupled impacts of climate change shown here. 
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