It is a premise in ecology that undisturbed ecosystems are relatively stable, and hence that sudden changes in ecosystem are likely to result from external, mostly human influences. Johan van de Koppel, Daphne van der Wal, Jan P. Bakker, and Peter M. J. Herman present a combined theoretical and empirical study indicating that natural processes within salt-marsh ecosystems can lead to ecosystem destruction. They model salt-marsh development based on the mutually enforcing interaction between plant growth and accumulation of sediment.
Observations from Dutch salt marshes confirm the model predictions that at first, plant-sediment feedback buffers the salt marsh from the strong physical gradient that characterizes the marine-terrestrial boundary, and improves plant growth along the gradient. However, as a consequence of this process, the edge of the salt marsh and the adjacent intertidal flat becomes increasingly steep and vulnerable to wave attack. Disturbance due to for instance a storm, may induce a cascade of vegetation collapse and severe erosion on the cliff edge, leading to salt-marsh destruction. Seawards of this cliff new pioneer vegetation can develop, leading to rejuvenation of the salt marsh.
The study shows that on short timescales, natural processes improve the functioning of salt-marsh ecosystems. On longer timescales, however, the same processes increase ecosystem vulnerability and may lead to collapse of salt-marsh vegetation.
Carrie Olivia Adams | EurekAlert!
Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society
Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...
Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.
A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy