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Climate-Linked Alteration of Ecosystem Services in Tidal Salt Marshes of Georgia and Louisiana

PI: Mark W. Hester (Lead PI; University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Irving A. Mendelssohn (LSU), Merryl Alber (UGA), Samantha Joye (UGA)

Support: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, STAR grant

Timeframe: 2005 - 2008

Project Objective:
     Our objective is to elucidate the effects of climate change on tidal salt marsh ecosystem services in Georgia and Louisiana, specifically to better understand how the ecosystem services of eutrophication control, carbon sequestration, sustainable habitat, and faunal support are influenced by climate change.  Our goal is to determine how changes in plant density associated with increased drought severity alter these ecosystem services in salt marshes with tidal amplitudes ranging from microtidal (Louisiana) to macrotidal (Georgia).

Progress Summary/Accomplishments: 
     Our approach is to take advantage of severe drought events in salt marshes of both Louisiana and Georgia that resulted in large areas of sudden salt marsh dieback.  Within each state, six salt marsh areas (blocks) were identified in which large (60 m2) permanent plots with boardwalks (to minimize sampling disturbance) were established in both severely-impacted dieback areas and adjacent, relatively unimpacted, reference marsh areas.  Within the dieback areas, we proposed to artificially establish (manually transplant) Spartina alterniflora as a mechanism of controlling plant density as a treatment independently from the drought-induced dieback.  Persistent drought conditions in Georgia have made obtaining the targeted plant densities difficult.  Nonetheless, we have successfully established a mosaic of 48 total permanent plots (each of 60 m2 area) in Louisiana and Georgia that span a range of Spartina alterniflora plant densities from reference density, to high transplanted plant density, to low transplanted plant density, to bare plots in which alteration of ecosystem services (as described above) is being evaluated at several scales by our four research teams.

Publications/Presentations:  To date, there have been six presentations (three at scientific conferences) that have arisen from this project with two more presentations at scientific conferences pending.

Joye, S. B., K. S. Hunter, M. Bernier, I. A. Mendelssohn, M. Alber, and M. W. Hester.  2007.  Climate-linked alteration of ecosystem services in tidal salt marshes of Georgia and Louisiana.  Poster presented at 10th International Symposium on Wetlands Biogeochemistry.  April 1-4, 2007.  Annapolis, Maryland.

Hester, M. W.  2006.  Climate-linked alteration of ecosystem services in tidal salt marshes of Georgia and Louisiana.  US EPA STAR Global Aquatic Ecosystem Services and Multi-Stressor Progress Review Workshop.  Washington D.C.  June 8-9, 2006.

Alber, M.  2006.  Salt marsh dieback in Georgia.  Sudden wetland dieback meeting.  May 2006.  Wellfleet, MA.

Alber, M.  2006.  Losses of foundation species and the consequences for ecosystem structure and function.Working group at the LTER All Scientists Meeting.  September 2006. Estes Park, CO.

Alber, M.  2006.  CSI Ecology: Salt marsh dieback in Georgia.  September 2006.  Univ. of Georgia Dept. of Geology.
Kenemer, B., C. McFarlin, and M. Alber.  2006.  Fiddler crabs dig it: A study of burrow dynamics in a salt marsh.  Poster presented at the Southeastern Estuarine Research Society.  October 2006.  Savannah, GA.

Invited and Pending Presentations
Hester, M. W., I. A. Mendelssohn, M. Alber, and M. Joye.  Invited.  Climate-linked alteration of ecosystem services in tidal salt marshes of Georgia and Louisiana: preliminary findings.  Estuarine Research Federation Meeting (scheduled for presentation in the Climate Effects on Tidal Wetlands Session).  November 4-8, 2007.  Providence, Rhode Island.

McFarlin, C., B. Kennemer, M. Alber, M. W. Hester, and D. Bishop.  Pending.  A comparison of dieback effects on salt marsh invertebrates in Georgia and Louisiana.  Estuarine Research Federation Meeting.  November 4-8, 2007. Providence, R. I.

Media Coverage:  Cause sought as marshes turn into barren flats” Boston Globe.  M. Alber Interviewed to discuss marsh dieback in the southeast and New England. 07/2006.

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This page was updated October 13, 2006