Influence of Sea-Level Rise and Storms on Soil Accretion Rates in the Mangrove Forests of Everglades National Park, USA

Monday, 15 December 2014
Joseph M Smoak1, Joshua Breithaupt1, Thomas Smith III2, Christian J Sanders3 and Larry C Peterson4, (1)Univ of South Florida, St Petersburg, FL, United States, (2)USGS, Saint Petersburg, FL, United States, (3)Southern Cross Univerisity, Centre for Coastal Biogeochemistry, Lismore, Australia, (4)Univ Miami, Miami, FL, United States
Mangrove forests provide a range of valuable ecosystem services including sequestering large quantities of organic carbon (OC) in their soils at rates higher than other forests. Whether or not mangrove soils continue to be a sink for OC will be determined by the mangrove ecosystems’ response to climate change-induced stressors. The threats of rising sea level outpacing mangrove forest soil accretion and increased wave energy associated with this rise may become the primary climate change-induced stressors on mangrove ecosystems. The threat from wave energy is amplified during storm events, which could increasingly damage mangrove forests along the coastline. However, storms may enhance accretion rates at some sites due to delivery of storm surge material, which could increase the system’s ability to keep pace with sea-level rise (SLR). To investigate these processes we measure soil accretion rates over the last 100 years (via 210Pb dating) within the mangrove forests of Everglades National Park, which are situated within the largest contiguous mangrove forest in North America. Accretion rates range from 2 to 2.8 mm per year for sites within 10 km of the Gulf of Mexico. These rates match (within error) or exceed SLR over the last 100 years. Sites farther inland than 10 km have slightly lower accretion rates. Throughout the system organic matter accumulation is the most important source material contributing to accretion. The more seaward sites also show an important contribution from carbonate material. Soil cores from the most seaward sites exhibited visual laminations and Ca peaks (determined via x-ray fluorescence). These are indicators of storm surge deposits. While higher sea level might produce more damage and loss of mangrove forest along open water (e.g., Gulf of Mexico), our findings suggest some sites will have enhanced accretion rates due to supplementation with storm surge material.