Ecotone dynamics and shifting range limits can be used to advance our understanding of the ecological implications of future range expansions in response to climate change. In the northern Gulf of Mexico, the salt marsh–mangrove ecotone is an area where range limits and ecotone dynamics can be studied in tandem as recent decreases in winter temperature extremes have allowed for mangrove expansion at the expense of salt marsh. In this study, we assessed aboveground and belowground plant–soil dynamics across the salt marsh–mangrove ecotone quantifying micro-spatial patterns in horizontal extent. Specifically, we studied vegetation and rooting dynamics of large and small trees, the impact of salt marshes (e.g. species and structure) on mangroves, and the influence of vegetation on soil properties along transects from underneath the mangrove canopy into the surrounding salt marsh. Vegetation and rooting dynamics differed in horizontal reach, and there was a positive relationship between mangrove tree height and rooting extent. We found that the horizontal expansion of mangrove roots into salt marsh extended up to eight meters beyond the aboveground boundary. Variation in vegetation structure and local hydrology appear to control mangrove seedling dynamics. Finally, soil carbon density and organic matter did not differ within locations across the salt marsh-mangrove interface. By studying aboveground and belowground variation across the ecotone, we can better predict the ecological effects of continued range expansion in response to climate change.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Microspatial ecotone dynamics at a shifting range limit: plant–soil variation across salt marsh–mangrove interfaces|
|Contributing office(s)||Wetland and Aquatic Research Center|