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Title Tidal freshwater forests: Sentinels for climate change
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We measured plant community composition and productivity, soil accretion, and C, N, and P burial in a tidal freshwater forest of the Altamaha River, Georgia to gain a better understanding of the ecosystem services they deliver and their ability to keep pace with current and future rates of sea level rise. Ten species were identified in two 0.1 ha plots. Nyssa aquatica (Tupelo Gum) made up 50% of the density and 57% of the total basal area. Nyssa biflora, Liquidambar styraciflua, and Fraxinus pennsylvanica were the next dominant species, collectively accounting for 37% of the density and 26% of the total basal area. Taxodium distichum only accounted for 3% of the density, but 12% of the total basal area. Aboveground productivity, measured as litterfall and stem wood growth, averaged 927 and 1030 g/m2 in 2015 and 2016, respectively, with litterfall accounting for 60% of the total. Tidal forest soils in the streamside and the interior (0-60 cm) contained 3-6% organic C, 0.20-0.40% N, and 270-540 µg/g P. Soil accretion based on 137Cs was 4.0 mm/year on the streamside and 0.2 mm/year in the forest interior. The rate of accretion in the interior is considerably less than the current rate of sea level rise (3.1 mm/year) along the Georgia coast. Because the accretion rate was much higher on the streamside, rates of C sequestration, N and P accumulation, and mineral sediment deposition also were much greater. Low accretion rates in the interior of the forest that accounts for most of the acreage suggests that accelerated sea level rise is likely to lead to foreseeable death of tidal forests from saltwater intrusion and submergence.

Contributors McKenna Stahl, Sarah Widney and Christopher B. Craft

Stahl, M., Widney, S. and Craft, C.B. 2018. Tidal freshwater forests: Sentinels for climate change. Ecological Engineering. 116:104-109. (DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoleng.2018.03.002)

Key Words climate change, nutrient cycling, sea level rise, Student Publication, Tidal forest, UGAMI Publication
File Date 2018
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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grants OCE-9982133, OCE-0620959, OCE-1237140 and OCE-1832178. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.