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The IPCC projects that, even if humans succeed in keeping temperatures below the 2°C target set in Paris, sea level will rise 0.28 to 0.61 m this century.

With this amount of sea level rise, salt water pulses from high tide floods and storm surges will become ever-more common in coastal ecosystems. Multiple LTER sites are running experiments and analyses to better examine the impacts of higher salinity on these communities– whether via transitory pulses or permanent inundation. Given that these ecosystems store up to 50x more carbon than terrestrial forests per unit area, there is considerable interest in how biogeochemical changes will alter net ecosystem carbon balance.

Seven researchers will share their findings at the Ecological Society of America’s Annual Meeting. Six of them will talk in a single afternoon session on “Saltwater Intrusion and Carbon Loss.” Among the questions being asked in these sessions:

  • How resilient are tidal freshwater marsh plant communities to pulses of saline water? How do they respond to different durations of exposure?

  • How might sea level rise inhibit wetland ecosystem services like nitrogen removal?

  • What effect will increased salinity have on soil organic carbon cycling — and therefore, on the ability of wetlands to accrete rapidly enough to outpace sea level rise?

  • How will marine water — and the phosphorus it carriers– impact species composition in benthic algal communities and overall carbon storage capacity?

Presentations Wednesday August 10

8:20 AM Will pulses of elevated salinity lead to a salt-tolerant plant community?
1:30 PM SALTEx: Seawater Addition Long Term Experiment: Testing the effects of press versus pulse addition of saltwater intrusion using a manipulative, replicated field experiment
1:50 PM The importance of ‘ambient salinity’ when predicting the response of coastal wetland biogeochemistry to sea level rise
2:10 PM Testing subsidy-stress effects of saltwater intrusion on microbial processing of carbon and nutrients in freshwater wetland soils
2:30 PM Experimental saltwater intrusion decreases periphyton production in a subtropical freshwater wetland
2:50 PM Simulated saltwater intrusion decreases net ecosystem exchange in coastal marshes, dampening their capacity to store carbon
3:20 PM

Assessing environmental drivers of DOC fluxes in the Shark River estuary: Modeling the effects of climate, water management, and salinity

4:00 PM Coastal subsidence as a function of salinity intrusion and peat decomposition in a karst environment