Spatially integrative metrics reveal hidden vulnerability of microtidal salt marshes

Nature Communications
By: , and 

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Abstract

Salt marshes are valued for their ecosystem services, and their vulnerability is typically assessed through biotic and abiotic measurements at individual points on the landscape. However, lateral erosion can lead to rapid marsh loss as marshes build vertically. Marsh sediment budgets represent a spatially integrated measure of competing constructive and destructive forces: a sediment surplus may result in vertical growth and/or lateral expansion, while a sediment deficit may result in drowning and/or lateral contraction. Here we show that sediment budgets of eight microtidal marsh complexes consistently scale with areal unvegetated/vegetated marsh ratios (UVVR) suggesting these metrics are broadly applicable indicators of microtidal marsh vulnerability. All sites are exhibiting a sediment deficit, with half the sites having projected lifespans of less than 350 years at current rates of sea-level rise and sediment availability. These results demonstrate that open-water conversion and sediment deficits are holistic and sensitive indicators of salt marsh vulnerability.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Spatially integrative metrics reveal hidden vulnerability of microtidal salt marshes
Series title Nature Communications
DOI 10.1038/ncomms14156
Volume 8
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Nature
Contributing office(s) Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description Article 14156; 7 p.
First page 1
Last page 7