Aerial view of a salt marsh at Virginia's Eastern Shore.
“We predict that marshes will absorb some of that carbon dioxide, and if other coastal ecosystems – such as seagrasses and mangroves – respond similarly, there might be a little less warming,” said the study’s lead author, Matt Kirwan, a research assistant professor of environmental sciences in the College of Arts & Sciences.
Salt marshes, made up primarily of grasses, are important coastal ecosystems, helping to protect shorelines from storms and providing habitat for a diverse range of wildlife, from birds to mammals, shell- and fin-fishes and mollusks. They also build up coastal elevations by trapping sediment during floods, and produce new soil from roots and decaying organic matter.
“One of the cool things about salt marshes is that they are perhaps the best example of an ecosystem that actually depends on carbon accumulation to survive climate change: The accumulation of roots in the soil builds their elevation, keeping the plants above the water,” Kirwan said.
Salt marshes store enormous quantities of carbon, essential to plant productivity, by, in essence, breathing in the atmospheric carbon and then using it to grow, flourish and increase the height of the soil. Even as the grasses die, the carbon remains trapped in the sediment. The researchers’ model predicts that under faster sea-level rise rates, salt marshes could bury up to four times as much carbon as they do now.
“Our work indicates that the value of these ecosystems in capturing atmospheric carbon might become much more important in the future, as the climate warms,” Kirwan said.
But the study also shows that marshes can survive only moderate rates of sea level rise. If seas rise too quickly, the marshes could not increase their elevations at a rate rapid enough to stay above the rising water. And if marshes were to be overcome by fast-rising seas, they no longer could provide the carbon storage capacity that otherwise would help slow climate warming and the resulting rising water.
“At fast levels of sea level rise, no realistic amount of carbon accumulation will help them survive,” Kirwan noted.
Kirwan and his co-author, Simon Mudd, a geosciences researcher at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, used computer models to predict salt marsh growth rates under different climate change and sea-level scenarios.
The United States Geological Survey’s Global Change Research Program supported the research.
Fariss Samarrai | Newswise Science News
World's first solar fuels reactor for night passes test
21.02.2018 | SolarPACES
Geophysicists and atmospheric scientists partner to track typhoons' seismic footprints
16.02.2018 | Princeton University
Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
22.02.2018 | Business and Finance
22.02.2018 | Health and Medicine
22.02.2018 | Life Sciences