Rapid carbon accumulation following managed realignment on the Bay of Fundy.
ABSTRACT: Salt marshes are highly effective carbon (C) sinks and have higher rates of soil C burial (per square meter) than terrestrial ecosystems. Marsh reclamation and anthropogenic impacts, however, have resulted in extensive losses of salt marshes. Restoration of marshes drained and "reclaimed" for agriculture (referred to in Canada as dykelands) and degraded marshes can generate C credits, but only if C burial is reliably quantified. To date, studies reporting on C burial rates have been limited primarily to restored marshes which are more than 10 years old. Here we report on a study which assessed C burial six years after the return of tidal flooding to a section of dykeland in Aulac, New Brunswick on Canada's Bay of Fundy. The C burial rate in the restored marsh averaged 1 329 g C m-2 yr-1, more than five times the rate reported for a nearby mature marsh. Carbon density in the recovering marsh was relatively consistent with depth and although salt marsh cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) became established in 2012, the bulk of the C in the new marsh deposit is assumed to be allochthonous. Financial constraints are a barrier to marsh restoration projects and C markets could provide a considerable source of funding for restoration work in the future. For marsh restoration projects to be recognized in C crediting systems, however, it must also be demonstrated that the allochthonous C would not otherwise have been sequestered; the potential for this is discussed.
Project description:Salt marsh losses have been documented worldwide because of land use change, wave erosion, and sea-level rise. It is still unclear how resistant salt marshes are to extreme storms and whether they can survive multiple events without collapsing. Based on a large dataset of salt marsh lateral erosion rates collected around the world, here, we determine the general response of salt marsh boundaries to wave action under normal and extreme weather conditions. As wave energy increases, salt marsh response to wind waves remains linear, and there is not a critical threshold in wave energy above which salt marsh erosion drastically accelerates. We apply our general formulation for salt marsh erosion to historical wave climates at eight salt marsh locations affected by hurricanes in the United States. Based on the analysis of two decades of data, we find that violent storms and hurricanes contribute less than 1% to long-term salt marsh erosion rates. In contrast, moderate storms with a return period of 2.5 mo are those causing the most salt marsh deterioration. Therefore, salt marshes seem more susceptible to variations in mean wave energy rather than changes in the extremes. The intrinsic resistance of salt marshes to violent storms and their predictable erosion rates during moderate events should be taken into account by coastal managers in restoration projects and risk management plans.
Project description:Flux calculations demonstrate that many estuaries are natural filters for trace metals. Yet, the underlying processes are poorly investigated. In the present study, it was hypothesized that intertidal marshes contribute significantly to the contaminant filter function of estuaries. Trace metal concentrations and sediment characteristics were measured along a transect from the subtidal, over an intertidal flat and marsh to a restored marsh with controlled reduced tide. Metal concentrations in the intertidal and restored marsh were found to be a factor two to five higher than values in the subtidal and intertidal flat sediments. High metal concentrations and high accretion rates indicate a high metal accumulation capacity of the intertidal marshes. Overbank sedimentation in the tidal marshes of the entire estuary was calculated to remove 25% to 50% of the riverine metal influx, even though marshes comprise less than 8% of the total surface of the estuary. In addition, the large-scale implementation of planned tidal marsh restoration projects was estimated to almost double the trace metal storage capacity of the present natural tidal marshes in the estuary.
Project description:The interplay between storms and sea level rise, and between ecology and sediment transport governs the behavior of rapidly evolving coastal ecosystems such as marshes and barrier islands. Sediment deposition during hurricanes is thought to increase the resilience of salt marshes to sea level rise by increasing soil elevation and vegetation productivity. We use mesocosms to simulate burial of Spartina alterniflora during hurricane-induced overwash events of various thickness (0-60 cm), and find that adventitious root growth within the overwash sediment layer increases total biomass by up to 120%. In contrast to most previous work illustrating a simple positive relationship between burial depth and vegetation productivity, our work reveals an optimum burial depth (5-10 cm) beyond which burial leads to plant mortality. The optimum burial depth increases with flooding frequency, indicating that storm deposition ameliorates flooding stress, and that its impact on productivity will become more important under accelerated sea level rise. Our results suggest that frequent, low magnitude storm events associated with naturally migrating islands may increase the resilience of marshes to sea level rise, and in turn, slow island migration rates.We find that burial deeper than the optimum results in reduced growth or mortality of marsh vegetation, which suggests that future increases in overwash thickness associated with more intense storms and artificial heightening of dunes could lead to less resilient marshes.
Project description:Salt marshes are highly effective carbon (C) sinks and bury more C per square meter annually than any other ecosystem. Reclamation and anthropogenic impacts, however, have resulted in extensive losses of salt marshes. Carbon credits can be generated and sold by restoring marshes, but only if C sequestration and net reductions in greenhouse gases (GHG) are reliably quantified. Restored marshes, however, may exhibit different patterns of GHG emissions than natural marshes and it is possible that they could temporarily become sources of N<sub>2</sub>O even in the usually N-limited estuarine environment. Research on short-term GHG flux following salt marsh restoration is limited to studies of two restored marshes which examined GHG flux more than six months after the return of tidal flooding. Here we report on a laboratory experiment in which soil cores collected from a drained agricultural marsh on the St. Lawrence Estuary were flooded with estuary water. Gas flux measurements immediately after flooding revealed small increases in N<sub>2</sub>O and CH<sub>4</sub>, but a large decline in CO<sub>2</sub> yielding, from a climatic perspective, a net cooling effect over the observation period. In addition to restoring the land's capacity to sequester C once a marsh develops, returning tidal flooding thus appears to have the added benefit of stemming large ongoing C losses. With more than 400 km<sup>2</sup> of undeveloped dykeland, Eastern Canada is well positioned to restore large sections of marsh and contribute to reducing atmospheric CO<sub>2</sub> concentrations.
Project description:There is great interest in the restoration and conservation of coastal habitats for protection from flooding and erosion. This is evidenced by the growing number of analyses and reviews of the effectiveness of habitats as natural defences and increasing funding world-wide for nature-based defences-i.e. restoration projects aimed at coastal protection; yet, there is no synthetic information on what kinds of projects are effective and cost effective for this purpose. This paper addresses two issues critical for designing restoration projects for coastal protection: (i) a synthesis of the costs and benefits of projects designed for coastal protection (nature-based defences) and (ii) analyses of the effectiveness of coastal habitats (natural defences) in reducing wave heights and the biophysical parameters that influence this effectiveness. We (i) analyse data from sixty-nine field measurements in coastal habitats globally and examine measures of effectiveness of mangroves, salt-marshes, coral reefs and seagrass/kelp beds for wave height reduction; (ii) synthesise the costs and coastal protection benefits of fifty-two nature-based defence projects and; (iii) estimate the benefits of each restoration project by combining information on restoration costs with data from nearby field measurements. The analyses of field measurements show that coastal habitats have significant potential for reducing wave heights that varies by habitat and site. In general, coral reefs and salt-marshes have the highest overall potential. Habitat effectiveness is influenced by: a) the ratios of wave height-to-water depth and habitat width-to-wavelength in coral reefs; and b) the ratio of vegetation height-to-water depth in salt-marshes. The comparison of costs of nature-based defence projects and engineering structures show that salt-marshes and mangroves can be two to five times cheaper than a submerged breakwater for wave heights up to half a metre and, within their limits, become more cost effective at greater depths. Nature-based defence projects also report benefits ranging from reductions in storm damage to reductions in coastal structure costs.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Salt marshes lie between many human communities and the coast and have been presumed to protect these communities from coastal hazards by providing important ecosystem services. However, previous characterizations of these ecosystem services have typically been based on a small number of historical studies, and the consistency and extent to which marshes provide these services has not been investigated. Here, we review the current evidence for the specific processes of wave attenuation, shoreline stabilization and floodwater attenuation to determine if and under what conditions salt marshes offer these coastal protection services. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We conducted a thorough search and synthesis of the literature with reference to these processes. Seventy-five publications met our selection criteria, and we conducted meta-analyses for publications with sufficient data available for quantitative analysis. We found that combined across all studies (n?=?7), salt marsh vegetation had a significant positive effect on wave attenuation as measured by reductions in wave height per unit distance across marsh vegetation. Salt marsh vegetation also had a significant positive effect on shoreline stabilization as measured by accretion, lateral erosion reduction, and marsh surface elevation change (n?=?30). Salt marsh characteristics that were positively correlated to both wave attenuation and shoreline stabilization were vegetation density, biomass production, and marsh size. Although we could not find studies quantitatively evaluating floodwater attenuation within salt marshes, there are several studies noting the negative effects of wetland alteration on water quantity regulation within coastal areas. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Our results show that salt marshes have value for coastal hazard mitigation and climate change adaptation. Because we do not yet fully understand the magnitude of this value, we propose that decision makers employ natural systems to maximize the benefits and ecosystem services provided by salt marshes and exercise caution when making decisions that erode these services.
Project description:Salt marshes provide a bulwark against sea-level rise (SLR), an interface between aquatic and terrestrial habitats, important nursery grounds for many species, a buffer against extreme storm impacts, and vast blue carbon repositories. However, salt marshes are at risk of loss from a variety of stressors such as SLR, nutrient enrichment, sediment deficits, herbivory, and anthropogenic disturbances. Determining the dynamics of salt marsh change with remote sensing requires high temporal resolution due to the spectral variability caused by disturbance, tides, and seasonality. Time series analysis of salt marshes can broaden our understanding of these changing environments. This study analyzed aboveground green biomass (AGB) in seven mid-Atlantic Hydrological Unit Code 8 (HUC-8) watersheds. The study revealed that the Eastern Lower Delmarva watershed had the highest average loss and the largest net reduction in salt marsh AGB from 1999-2018. The study developed a method that used Google Earth Engine (GEE) enabled time series of the Landsat archive for regional analysis of salt marsh change and identified at-risk watersheds and salt marshes providing insight into the resilience and management of these ecosystems. The time series were filtered by cloud cover and the Tidal Marsh Inundation Index (TMII). The combination of GEE enabled Landsat time series, and TMII filtering demonstrated a promising method for historic assessment and continued monitoring of salt marsh dynamics.
Project description:Ria de Aveiro is a mesotidal coastal lagoon with one of the largest continuous salt marshes in Europe. The objective of this work was to assess C, N and P stocks of Spartina maritima (low marsh pioneer halophyte) and Juncus maritimus (representative of mid-high marsh halophytes) combined with the contribution of Halimione portulacoides, Sarcocornia perennis, and Bolbochenous maritimus to the lagoon ?4400?ha marsh area. A multivariate analysis (PCO), taking into account environmental variables and the annual biomass and nutrient dynamics, showed that there are no clear seasonal or spatial differences within low or mid-high marshes, but clearly separates J. maritimus and S. maritima marshes. Calculations of C, N and P stocks in the biomass of the five most representative halophytes plus the respective rhizosediment (25?cm depth), and taking into account their relative coverage, represents 252053?Mg C, 38100?Mg N and 7563?Mg P. Over 90% of the stocks are found within mid-high marshes. This work shows the importance of this lagoon's salt marshes on climate and nutrients regulation, and defines the current condition concerning the 'blue carbon' and nutrient stocks, as a basis for prospective future scenarios of salt marsh degradation or loss, namely under SLR context.
Project description:In general, community similarity is thought to decay with distance; however, this view may be complicated by the relative roles of different ecological processes at different geographical scales, and by the compositional perspective (e.g. species, functional group and phylogenetic lineage) used. Coastal salt marshes are widely distributed worldwide, but no studies have explicitly examined variation in salt marsh plant community composition across geographical scales, and from species, functional and phylogenetic perspectives. Based on studies in other ecosystems, we hypothesized that, in coastal salt marshes, community turnover would be more rapid at local versus larger geographical scales; and that community turnover patterns would diverge among compositional perspectives, with a greater distance decay at the species level than at the functional or phylogenetic levels. We tested these hypotheses in salt marshes of two regions: The southern Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the United States. We examined the characteristics of plant community composition at each salt marsh site, how community similarity decayed with distance within individual salt marshes versus among sites in each region, and how community similarity differed among regions, using species, functional and phylogenetic perspectives. We found that results from the three compositional perspectives generally showed similar patterns: there was strong variation in community composition within individual salt marsh sites across elevation; in contrast, community similarity decayed with distance four to five orders of magnitude more slowly across sites within each region. Overall, community dissimilarity of salt marshes was lowest on the southern Atlantic Coast, intermediate on the Gulf Coast, and highest between the two regions. Our results indicated that local gradients are relatively more important than regional processes in structuring coastal salt marsh communities. Our results also suggested that in ecosystems with low species diversity, functional and phylogenetic approaches may not provide additional insight over a species-based approach.
Project description:The implementation and monitoring of management strategies is integral to protect coastal marshes from increased inundation and submergence under sea-level rise. Sediment addition is one such strategy in which sediment is added to marshes to raise relative elevations, decrease tidal inundation, and enhance ecosystem processes. This study looked at the plant and invertebrate community responses over 12 months following a sediment addition project on a salt marsh located in an urbanized estuary in southern California, USA. This salt marsh is experiencing local subsidence, is sediment-limited from landscape modifications, has resident protected species, and is at-risk of submergence from sea-level rise. Abiotic measurements, invertebrate cores, and plant parameters were analyzed before and after sediment application in a before-after-control-impact (BACI) design. Immediately following the sediment application, plant cover and invertebrate abundance decreased significantly, with smothering of existing vegetation communities without regrowth, presumably creating resulting harsh abiotic conditions. At six months after the sediment application treatment, Salicornia bigelovii minimally colonized the sediment application area, and Spartina foliosa spread vegetatively from the edges of the marsh; however, at 12 months following sediment application overall plant recovery was still minimal. Community composition of infaunal invertebrates shifted from a dominance of marsh-associated groups like oligochaetes and polychaetes to more terrestrial and more mobile dispersers like insect larvae. In contrast to other studies, such as those with high organic deposition, that showed vegetation and invertebrate community recovery within one year of sediment application, our results indicated a much slower recovery following a sediment addition of 32 cm which resulted in a supratidal elevation with an average of 1.62 m (NAVD88) at our sampling locations. Our results indicate that the site did not recover after one year and that recovery may take longer which illustrates the importance of long-term monitoring to fully understand restoration trajectories and inform adaptive management. Testing and monitoring sea-level rise adaptation strategies like sediment addition for salt marshes is important to prevent the loss of important coastal ecosystems.