Differential effects of chronic and acute simulated seawater intrusion on tidal freshwater marsh carbon cycling.
ABSTRACT: Tidal freshwater ecosystems experience acute seawater intrusion associated with periodic droughts, but are expected to become chronically salinized as sea level rises. Here we report the results from an experimental manipulation in a tidal freshwater Zizaniopsis miliacea marsh on the Altamaha River, GA where diluted seawater was added to replicate marsh plots on either a press (constant) or pulse (2 months per year) basis. We measured changes in porewater chemistry (SO4 2-, Cl-, organic C, inorganic nitrogen and phosphorus), ecosystem CO2 and CH4 exchange, and microbial extracellular enzyme activity. We found that press (chronic) seawater additions increased porewater chloride and sulfate almost immediately, and ammonium and phosphate after 2-4 months. Chronic increases in salinity also decreased net ecosystem exchange, resulting in reduced CO2 and CH4 emissions from press plots. Our pulse treatment, designed to mimic natural salinity incursion in the Altamaha River (September and October), temporarily increased porewater ammonium concentrations but had few lasting effects on porewater chemistry or ecosystem carbon balance. Our findings suggest that long-term, chronic saltwater intrusion will lead to reduced C fixation and the potential for increased nutrient (N, P) export while acute pulses of saltwater will have temporary effects.
Project description:<h4>Background and aims</h4>The capacity for dispersal to promote or hinder species' responses to global change remains a major question in ecology. One ecosystem experiencing rapid change is the tidal marsh, which is migrating inland in response to accelerated sea level rise. Few studies to date have investigated the ecological dynamics that impact this large-scale migration. Seed dispersal and persistence in the soil seed bank is a component that can be strongly indicative of community trajectories. With this in mind, the aim of our study was to characterize the germinable seed bank across a marsh-forest ecotone in the Chesapeake Bay.<h4>Methods</h4>Soil samples were collected across transects that ran from the high marsh to the coastal loblolly pine forest in a brackish marsh in Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, MD, USA. Samples were grown in a greenhouse and watered with either freshwater or 3 ppt seawater solution. We compared community composition across transects and between salinity treatments. Additionally, we compared the seed bank with standing vegetation and used seed trait data from the TRY Database to investigate changes in functional traits along this ecotone.<h4>Key results</h4>We found halophytic species dispersing up to 15 m into the forest and a general lack of obligate upland species, including near absence of Pinus taeda, the dominant species in the forest canopy. A majority of species detected in the seed bank were wetland species of various types, with species with wide salinity tolerance arising most frequently. Salinity addition had a significant negative influence on seed bank diversity.<h4>Conclusion</h4>Overall, our seed bank results suggest that dispersal and germination under the conditions of saltwater intrusion will limit forest regeneration and favour marsh plant dispersal. This indicates that the ecological processes that determine the soil seed bank community will support continued migration of marsh species into uplands.
Project description:In coastal marsh ecosystems, porewater salinity strongly affects vegetation distribution and productivity. To simulate marsh porewater salinity, an integrated, spatially explicit model was developed, accounting for tidal inundation, evaporation, and precipitation, as well as lateral and vertical exchanges in both surface waters and the subsurface. It was applied to the Duplin River marsh, Sapelo Island, USA, over a 3-year period, which covered both drought and wet conditions. Simulated porewater salinity in the low and high marsh correlated with Duplin River salinity, with evapotranspiration and precipitation leading to substantial variations in porewater salinities across seasons, in particular in the high marsh. The model revealed substantial interannual variability in marsh soil conditions, and-due to its process-based approach linked to external forcings-can be used to explore effects of sea level rise and changes in hydrological forcings on marsh soil conditions.
Project description:Almost half of the groundwater in the Pearl River Delta (PRD) contains salt water originally derived from paleo-seawater due to the Holocene transgression, which then generates intense physicochemical gradients in the mixing zone between freshwater and saltwater. Although some studies have been conducted on the hydrological and geochemical characteristics of groundwater in the PRD to monitor the intrusion of seawater, little attention has been paid to the microbial community of this particular region. In this study, we implemented a high-throughput sequencing analysis to characterize the microbial communities along a salinity gradient in the PRD aquifer, China. Our results indicated that the microbial community composition varied significantly depending on the salinity of the aquifer. The presence of abundant anaerobic microorganisms of the genera Desulfovibrio and Methanococcus in certain saltwater samples may be responsible for the gas generation of H2S and CH4 in the stratum. In saline water samples (TDS?>?10?g/L), the linear discriminant analysis effect size (LEfSe) analysis found two biomarkers that usually live in marine environments, and the aquifers of the PRD still contained large quantity of saltwater, indicating that the impact of the paleo-seawater has lasted to this day. The predictive metagenomic analysis revealed that the metabolic pathways present in the groundwater samples studied, included the degradation of pesticides and refractory organics (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), atrazine and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), matter cycling (methane, nitrogen and sulfur), and inorganic ion and mineral metabolites. This study can help enhance our understanding of the composition of the microbial assemblages and its implications as an environmental indicator in an aquifer affected by saltwater intrusion.
Project description:The retreat of coastal forests as sea level rises is well documented; however, the mechanisms which control this retreat vary with the physical and biological setting of the interface between tidal marsh and forest. Tidal flooding and saltwater intrusion as well as flooding and wind associated with storms can kill trees. Even if these processes do not kill stands, they may halt regeneration because seedlings are more sensitive to stress. We present a case study of a coastal pine forest on the Delmarva Peninsula, United States. This forest contains a persistent but nonregenerating zone of mature trees, the size of which is related to the sea level rise experienced since forest establishment. The transgression of coastal forest and shrub or marsh ecosystems is an ecological ratchet: sea-level rise pushes the regeneration boundary further into the forest while extreme events move the persistence boundary up to the regeneration boundary.
Project description:In coastal environments, evaporation is an important driver of subsurface salinity gradients in marsh systems. However, it has not been addressed in the intertidal zone of sandy beaches. Here, we used field data on an estuarine beach foreshore with numerical simulations to show that evaporation causes upper intertidal zone pore-water salinity to be double that of seawater. We found the increase in pore-water salinity mainly depends on air temperature and relative humidity, and tide and wave actions dilute a fraction of the high salinity plume, resulting in a complex process. This is in contrast to previous studies that consider seawater as the most saline source to a coastal aquifer system, thereby concluding that seawater infiltration always increases pore-water salinity by seawater-groundwater mixing dynamics. Our results demonstrate the combined effects of evaporation and tide and waves on subsurface salinity distribution on a beach face. We anticipate our quantitative investigation will shed light on the studies of salt-affected biological activities in the intertidal zone. It also impacts our understanding of the impact of global warming; in particular, the increase in temperature does not only shift the saltwater landward, but creates a different salinity distribution that would have implications on intertidal biological zonation.
Project description:Sea level rise is mixing formerly isolated freshwater communities with saltwater communities. The structure of these new aquatic communities is jointly controlled by pre- and post-colonization processes. Similarly, since salinity is a strong abiotic determinant of post-colonization survival in coastal systems, changes in salinity will likely impact community composition. In this study, we examine how a strong abiotic gradient affects the diversity and structure of bacterial and zooplankton communities and associated ecosystem functions (decomposition and carbon mineralization). We ran a six week dispersal experiment using mesocosm ponds with four distinct salinity profiles (0, 5, 9, and 13 psu). We find that salinity is the primary driver of both bacterial and zooplankton community composition. We find evidence that as bacterial richness increases so does the amount of decomposition. A phenomenological model suggests carbon mineralization may decrease at mid-salinities; this warrants future work into possible mechanisms for this apparent loss of function. Understanding how salinization changes community structure and ecosystem function may be paramount for managing and conserving coastal plain ecosystems where salinity is increasing due to sea level rise, saltwater intrusion, storm surges, and drought.
Project description:Invasion of Spartina alterniflora in coastal areas of China increased methane (CH4) emissions. To elucidate the underlying mechanisms, we measured CH4 production potential, methanogen community structure and biogeochemical factors along a coastal wetland transect comprised of five habitat regions: open water, bare tidal flat, invasive S. alterniflora marsh and native Suaeda salsa and Phragmites australis marshes. CH4 production potential in S. alterniflora marsh was 10 times higher than that in other regions, and it was significantly correlated with soil organic carbon, dissolved organic carbon and trimethylamine concentrations, but was not correlated with acetate or formate concentrations. Although the diversity of methanogens was lowest in S. alterniflora marsh, invasion increased methanogen abundance by 3.48-fold, compared with native S. salsa and P. australis marshes due to increase of facultative Methanosarcinaceae rather than acetotrophic and hydrogenotrophic methanogens. Ordination analyses suggested that trimethylamine was the primary factor regulating shift in methanogen community structure. Addition of trimethylamine increased CH4 production rates by 1255-fold but only by 5.61- and 11.4-fold for acetate and H2/CO2, respectively. S. alterniflora invasion elevated concentration of non-competitive trimethylamine, and shifted methanogen community from acetotrophic to facultative methanogens, which together facilitated increased CH4 production potential.
Project description:Salinity is a major driver of bacterial community composition across the globe. Despite growing recognition that different bacterial species are present or active at different salinities, the mechanisms by which salinity structures community composition remain unclear. We tested the hypothesis that these patterns reflect ecological coherence in the salinity preferences of phylogenetic groups using a reciprocal transplant experiment of fresh- and saltwater wetland soils. The salinity of both the origin and host environments affected community composition (16S rRNA gene sequences) and activity (CO2 and CH4 production, and extracellular enzyme activity). These changes in community composition and activity rates were strongly correlated, which suggests the effect of environment on function could be mediated, at least in part, by microbial community composition. Based on their distribution across treatments, each phylotype was categorized as having a salinity preference (freshwater, saltwater, or none) and phylogenetic analyses revealed a significant influence of evolutionary history on these groupings. This finding was corroborated by examining the salinity preferences of high-level taxonomic groups. For instance, we found that the majority of ?- and ?-proteobacteria in these wetland soils preferred saltwater, while many ?-proteobacteria prefer freshwater. Overall, our results indicate the effect of salinity on bacterial community composition results from phylogenetically-clustered salinity preferences.
Project description:While flow is known to be a major driver of estuarine ecosystems, targeted flow manipulations are rare because tidal systems are extremely variable in space and time, and because the necessary infrastructure is rarely available. In summer 2018 we used a unique water control structure in the San Francisco Estuary (SFE) to direct a managed flow pulse into Suisun Marsh, one of the largest contiguous tidal marshes on the west coast of the United States. The action was designed to increase habitat suitability for the endangered Delta Smelt Hypomesus transpacificus, a small osmerid fish endemic to the upper SFE. The approach was to operate the Suisun Marsh Salinity Control Gates (SMSCG) in conjunction with increased Sacramento River tributary inflow to direct an estimated 160 x 106 m3 pulse of low salinity water into Suisun Marsh during August, a critical time period for juvenile Delta Smelt rearing. Three-dimensional modeling showed that directing additional low salinity water into Suisun Marsh ("Flow Action") substantially increased the area of low salinity habitat for Delta Smelt that persisted beyond the period of SMSCG operations. Field monitoring showed that turbidity and chlorophyll were at higher levels in Suisun Marsh, representing better habitat conditions, than the upstream Sacramento River region throughout the study period. The Flow Action had no substantial effects on zooplankton abundance, nor did Suisun Marsh show enhanced levels of these prey species in comparison to the Sacramento River. Fish monitoring data suggested that small numbers of Delta Smelt colonized Suisun Marsh from the Sacramento River during the 2018 Flow Action. Comparison of the salinity effects of the Flow Action to historical catch data for Suisun Marsh further supported our hypothesis that the Flow Action would have some benefit for this rare species. Our study provides insight into both the potential use of targeted flow manipulations to support endangered fishes such as Delta Smelt, and into the general response of estuarine habitat to flow management.
Project description:Tidal marshes maintain elevation relative to sea level through accumulation of mineral and organic matter, yet this dynamic accumulation feedback mechanism has not been modeled widely in the context of accelerated sea-level rise. Uncertainties exist about tidal marsh resiliency to accelerated sea-level rise, reduced sediment supply, reduced plant productivity under increased inundation, and limited upland habitat for marsh migration. We examined marsh resiliency under these uncertainties using the Marsh Equilibrium Model, a mechanistic, elevation-based soil cohort model, using a rich data set of plant productivity and physical properties from sites across the estuarine salinity gradient. Four tidal marshes were chosen along this gradient: two islands and two with adjacent uplands. Varying century sea-level rise (52, 100, 165, 180 cm) and suspended sediment concentrations (100%, 50%, and 25% of current concentrations), we simulated marsh accretion across vegetated elevations for 100 years, applying the results to high spatial resolution digital elevation models to quantify potential changes in marsh distributions. At low rates of sea-level rise and mid-high sediment concentrations, all marshes maintained vegetated elevations indicative of mid/high marsh habitat. With century sea-level rise at 100 and 165 cm, marshes shifted to low marsh elevations; mid/high marsh elevations were found only in former uplands. At the highest century sea-level rise and lowest sediment concentrations, the island marshes became dominated by mudflat elevations. Under the same sediment concentrations, low salinity brackish marshes containing highly productive vegetation had slower elevation loss compared to more saline sites with lower productivity. A similar trend was documented when comparing against a marsh accretion model that did not model vegetation feedbacks. Elevation predictions using the Marsh Equilibrium Model highlight the importance of including vegetation responses to sea-level rise. These results also emphasize the importance of adjacent uplands for long-term marsh survival and incorporating such areas in conservation planning efforts.