Presence of the Herbaceous Marsh Species Schoenoplectus americanus Enhances Surface Elevation Gain in Transitional Coastal Wetland Communities Exposed to Elevated CO2 and Sediment Deposition Events

Plants (Basel). 2022 May 6;11(9):1259. doi: 10.3390/plants11091259.

ABSTRACT

Coastal wetlands are dynamic ecosystems that exist along a landscape continuum that can range from freshwater forested wetlands to tidal marsh to mudflat communities. Climate-driven stressors, such as sea-level rise, can cause shifts among these communities, resulting in changes to ecological functions and services. While a growing body of research has characterized the landscape-scale impacts of individual climate-driven stressors, little is known about how multiple stressors and their potential interactions will affect ecological functioning of these ecosystems. How will coastal wetlands respond to discrete climate disturbances, such as hurricane sediment deposition events, under future conditions of elevated atmospheric CO2? Will these responses vary among the different wetland communities? We conducted experimental greenhouse manipulations to simulate sediment deposition from a land-falling hurricane under future elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations (720 ppm CO2). We measured responses of net primary production, decomposition, and elevation change in mesocosms representing four communities along a coastal wetland landscape gradient: freshwater forested wetland, forest/marsh mix, marsh, and mudflat. When Schoenoplectus americanus was present, above- and belowground biomass production was highest, decomposition rates were lowest, and wetland elevation gain was greatest, regardless of CO2 and sediment deposition treatments. Sediment addition initially increased elevation capital in all communities, but post-deposition rates of elevation gain were lower than in mesocosms without added sediment. Together these results indicate that encroachment of oligohaline marshes into freshwater forested wetlands can enhance belowground biomass accumulation and resilience to sea-level rise, and these plant-mediated ecosystem services will be augmented by periodic sediment pulses from storms and restoration efforts.

PMID:35567260 | DOI:10.3390/plants11091259

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