Ecosystem Productivity Responses to Saltwater Intrusion and P Loading As a Result of Future Sea Level Rise in the Coastal Everglades
Monday, 15 December 2014
Coastal wetlands, which have immense potential to store carbon (C) in vegetation and sediments, are a vital part of the global C cycle. How C storage in coastal wetlands will be affected by accelerated sea level rise as a result of a warming climate, however, is uncertain. In oligotrophic wetlands such as the Everglades in the southeastern USA, saltwater intrusion will bring ions (Cl-, SO42-) and phosphorus (P), a limiting nutrient for ecosystem productivity. It is hypothesized that shifts in stressors and subsidies can shift the soil carbon balance from a net C sink to a source, stimulating peat collapse, which will, in turn, accelerate the effects of sea level rise. The objective of this study is to investigate how simulated saltwater intrusion into freshwater and oligohaline wetlands will change net ecosystem productivity and affect the soil C balance. Using coupled field and mesocosm experiments beginning in August 2014, we are examining how plant gross primary production, plant respiration, ecosystem respiration, and net ecosystem exchange in freshwater and oligohaline wetlands will change when exposed to saltwater and an increase in P loading. We predict that a higher saltwater load will increase ecosystem respiration while decreasing ecosystem productivity, possibly shifting the C balance of these marshes from a net sink to a source. In contrast, increased P loading has been shown to increase ecosystem productivity in oligotrophic wetlands; sawgrass, the dominant macrophyte in Everglades marshes, increases productivity with increased P, but periphyton decreases productivity. Therefore, it is still unknown how the interaction of an increased P subsidy coupled with saltwater intrusion will affect overall net ecosystem productivity and the C balance. Results from this study will reveal how the soil C balance in freshwater and oligohaline wetlands changes with saltwater intrusion due to sea level rise.