Advertisement

Ecosystems

pp 1–13 | Cite as

Decadal-Scale Vegetation Change Driven by Salinity at Leading Edge of Rising Sea Level

  • Paul J. TaillieEmail author
  • Christopher E. Moorman
  • Benjamin Poulter
  • Marcelo Ardón
  • Ryan E. Emanuel
Article

Abstract

As sea levels rise, low-lying coastal forests increasingly are subject to stressors such as inundation and saltwater exposure. At long timescales (for example, centuries), the extent of inundation and saltwater exposure will increase; however, on a decadal timescale, the role of these drivers may differ in both magnitude and direction. To investigate the drivers of decadal-scale vegetation change, we measured the changes in five metrics of vegetation composition and structure between 2003/2004 and 2016/2017 at 98 plots distributed across a vegetation gradient from coastal forest to brackish marshes (< 0.5–18 ppt). We used elevation as a proxy of inundation vulnerability and soil sodium concentration as a proxy of saltwater exposure, and we investigated relationships between these two variables and the change in vegetation conditions between the two sampling periods. Soil sodium concentration was a significant predictor of vegetation change for all five vegetation metrics, whereas the effect of elevation was not significant for any of the metrics. The one site that was affected by wildfire twice during the duration of the study shifted almost completely from forest to marsh with limited regeneration of woody vegetation observed in 2016/2017. Our results show that salinization in our system is a more important driver of vegetation change than inundation potential. Furthermore, the effects of drought-induced salinization could be amplified by the elevated risk of wildfire during droughts. Forecasting the response of coastal wetlands to rising sea levels will require a better understanding of the individual and combined effects of salinity, droughts, and wildfires on vegetation.

Keywords

coastal forest drought inundation marsh migration salinization wildfire 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We thank the College of Natural Resources at North Carolina State University (Grant No. 769393) and the Department of the Interior Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center for financial support. The biologists and managers of Alligator National Wildlife Refuge, Swanquarter National Wildlife Refuge, Gull Rock State Game Land, Alligator State Game Land, and Palmetto-Peartree Preserve assisted with access, logistical support, and local expertise and were invaluable to our study. We thank C. Bland, A. Bledsoe, L. Bobay, and L. Smart for their diligence and focus during collection of field data.

Data Accessibility Statement

The data reported in this study are permanently archived at the Pangaea Online Data Repository and can be found at https://doi.pangaea.de/10.1594/PANGAEA.896941.

Supplementary material

10021_2019_382_MOESM1_ESM.docx (23 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 24 kb)

References

  1. Anderson CJ, Lockaby BG, Click N. 2013. Changes in wetland forest structure, basal growth, and composition across a tidal gradient. The American Midland Naturalist 170:1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anisfeld SC, Cooper KR, Kemp AC. 2017. Upslope development of a tidal marsh as a function of upland land use. Global Change Biology 23:755–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ardón M, Morse JL, Colman BP, Bernhardt ES. 2013. Drought-induced saltwater incursion leads to increased wetland nitrogen export. Global Change Biology 19:2976–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bailey AD, Mickler R, Frost C. 2007. Presettlement fire regime and vegetation mapping in southeastern coastal plain forest ecosystems. In: USDA Forest Service Proceedings. pp 275–86.Google Scholar
  5. Barbier EB, Hacker SD, Kennedy C, Koch EW, Adrian C, Silliman BR, Hacker D, Stier C, Koch W. 2011. The value of estuarine and coastal ecosystem services. Ecological Monographs 81:169–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bhattachan A, Emanuel RE, Ardon M, Bernhardt ES, Anderson SM, Stillwagon MG, Ury EA, Bendor TK, Wright JP. 2018. Evaluating the effects of land-use change and future climate change on vulnerability of coastal landscapes to saltwater intrusion. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene 6:62.Google Scholar
  7. Brinson MM, Christian RR, Blum LK. 1995. Multiple states in the sea-level induced transition from terrestrial forest to estuary. Estuaries 18:648–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Buzzelli CP, Ramus JS, Paerl HW. 2003. Ferry-based monitoring of surface water quality in North Carolina estuaries. Estuaries 26:975–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chagué-Goff C, Niedzielski P, Wong HKY, Szczuciński W, Sugawara D, Goff J. 2012. Environmental impact assessment of the 2011 Tohoku-oki tsunami on the Sendai Plain. Sediment Geology 282:175–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Church JA, Clark PU, Cazenave A, Gregory JM, Jevrejeva S, Levermann A, Merrifield MA, Milne GA, Nerem RS, Nunn PD, Payne AJ, Pfeffer WT, Stammer D, Unnikrishnan AS. 2013. Sea level change. In: Stocker TF, Qin D, Plattner K, Tignor M, Allen SK, Boschung J, Nauels A, Xia Y, Bex V, Midgley PM, Eds. Climate change 2013: the physical science basis. Contribution of working group I to the fifth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Craft C, Clough J, Ehman J, Jove S, Park R, Pennings S, Guo H, Machmuller M. 2009. Forecasting the effects of accelerated sea-level rise on tidal marsh ecosystem services. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 7:73–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dale VH, Joyce LA, Mcnulty S, Neilson RP, Ayres MP, Flannigan MD, Hanson PJ, Irland LC, Lugo AE, Peterson CJ, Simberloff D, Swanson FJ, Stocks BJ, Wotton BM. 2001. Climate change and forest disturbances. Bioscience 51:723–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Day JW, Boesch DF, Clairain EJ, Kemp GP, Laska SB, Mitsch WJ, Orth K, Mashriqui H, Reed DJ, Shabman L, Simenstad CA, Streever BJ, Twilley RR, Watson CC, Wells JT, Whigham DF. 2007. Restoration of the Mississippi Delta: Lessons from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Science 315:1679–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Desantis LRG, Bhotika S, Williams K, Putz FE. 2007. Sea-level rise and drought interactions accelerate forest decline on the Gulf Coast of Florida, USA. Global Change Biology 13:2349–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Enwright NM, Griffith KT, Osland MJ. 2016. Barriers to and opportunities for landward migration of coastal wetlands with sea-level rise. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 14:307–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Field CR, Gjerdrum C, Elphick CS. 2016. Forest resistance to sea-level rise prevents landward migration of tidal marsh. Biological Conservation 201:363–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fletcher M-S, Wood SW, Haberle SG. 2013. A fire driven shift from forest to non-forest: evidence for alternative stable states? Ecology 95:2504–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Frost CC. 1995. Presettlement fire regimes in southeastern marshes, peatlands, and swamps. Fire in wetlands: a management perspective. In: Proceedings of 19th Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference. pp 39–60.Google Scholar
  19. Gabler CA, Osland MJ, Grace JB, Stagg CL, Day RH, Hartley SB, Enwright NM, From AS, McCoy ML, McLeod JL. 2017. Macroclimatic change expected to transform coastal wetland ecosystems this century. Nature Climate Change 7:142–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gardner LR, Michener WK, Blood ER, Williams TM, Lipscomb DJ, Jefferson WH. 1991. Ecological impact of Hurricane Hugo-Salinization of a coastal forest. Journal of Coastal Research 8:301–17.Google Scholar
  21. Hauer ME, Evans JM, Mishra DR. 2016. Millions projected to be at risk from sea-level rise in the continental United States. Nature Climate Change 6:691–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Herbert ER, Boon P, Burgin AJ, Neubauer SC, Franklin RB, Ardón M, Hopfensperger KN, Lamers LPM, Gell P. 2015. A global perspective on wetland salinization: ecological consequences of a growing threat to freshwater wetlands. Ecosphere 6:206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kaushal SS, Likens GE, Pace ML, Utz RM, Haq S, Gorman J, Grese M. 2018. Freshwater salinization syndrome on a continental scale. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 115:E574–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Krauss KW, Chambers JL, Creech D. 2007. Selection for salt tolerance in tidal freshwater swamp species: advances using baldcypress as a model for restoration. In: Conner WH, Doyle TW, Krauss KW, Eds. Ecology of tidal freshwater forested wetlands of the Southeastern United States. Springer. pp 385–410.Google Scholar
  25. Manda AK, Giuliano AS, Allen TR. 2014. Influence of artificial channels on the source and extent of saline water intrusion in the wind tide dominated wetlands of the southern Albemarle estuarine system (USA). Environmental Earth Sciences 71:4409–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Michener WK, Blood ER, Bildstein KL, Brinson MM, Gardner LR. 1997. Climate change, hurricanes and tropical storms, and rising sea level in coastal wetlands. Ecological Applications 7:770–801.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mitasova H, Overton MF, Recalde JJ, Bernstein DJ, Freeman CW. 2009. Raster-based analysis of coastal terrain dynamics from multitemporal LiDAR data. Journal of Coastal Research 25:507–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Moorhead KK, Brinson MM. 1995. Response of wetlands to rising sea level in the lower coastal plain of North Carolina. Ecological Applications 5:261–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mulholland PJ, Best GR, Coutant CC, Hornberger GM, Meyer JL, Robinson PJ, Stenberg JR, Turner RE, Vera-Herrera F, Wetzel RG. 1997. Effects of climate change on freshwater ecosystems of the southeastern United States and the Gulf Coast of Mexico. Hydrological Processes 11:949–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Myers RK, Van Lear DH. 1998. Hurricane-fire interactions in coastal forests of the south: a review and hypothesis. Forest Ecology and Management 103:265–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. NCDENR. 2010. North Carolina sea-level rise assessment report. https://www.sealevel.info/NC_Sea-Level_Rise_Assessment_Report_2010–CRC_Science_Panel.pdf. Accessed 10 January 2019.
  32. Nicholls RJ, Cazenave A. 2010. Sea-level rise and its impact on coastal zones. Science 328:1517–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Osland MJ, Enwright NM, Day RH, Gabler CA, Stagg CL, Grace JB. 2016. Beyond just sea-level rise: considering macroclimatic drivers within coastal wetland vulnerability assessments to climate change. Global Change Biology 22:1–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pennings SC, Grant MB, Bertness MD. 2005. Plant zonation in low-latitude salt marshes: disentangling the roles of flooding, salinity and competition. Journal of Ecology 93:159–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Pezeshki SR, Delaune RD, Patrick WH. 1990. Flooding and saltwater intrusion: potential effects on survival and productivity of wetland forests along the U.S. Gulf Coast. Forest Ecology and Management 33–34:287–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Pfahl S, O’Gorman PA, Fischer EM. 2017. Understanding the regional pattern of projected future changes in extreme precipitation. Nature Climate Change 7:423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Poulter B. 2005. Interactions between landscape disturbance and gradual environmental change: Plant community migration in response to fire and sea-level rise. Ph.D. Dissertation, Duke University. Durham, NC.Google Scholar
  38. Poulter B, Halpin PN. 2008. Raster modelling of coastal flooding from sea-level rise. International Journal of Geographical Information Science 22:167–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Poulter B, Christensen NL, Qian SS. 2008. Tolerance of Pinus taeda and Pinus serotina to low salinity and flooding: implications for equilibrium vegetation dynamics. Journal of Vegetation Science 19(1):15–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Poulter B, Qian SS, Christensen NL. 2009. Determinants of coastal treeline and the role of abiotic and biotic interactions. Plant Ecology 202:55–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. R Core Team. 2018. R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing. http://www.r-project.org. Accessed 13 December 2019.
  42. Ross MS, O’Brien JJ, Sternberg L da SL. 1994. Sea-level rise and the reduction in pine forests in the Florida Keys. Ecological Applications 4:144–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Ross MS, O’Brien JJ, Ford RG, Zhang K, Morkill A. 2009. Disturbance and the rising tide: the challenge of biodiversity management on low-island ecosystems. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 7:471–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sklar FH, Browder JA. 1998. Coastal environmental impacts brought about by alterations to freshwater flow in the Gulf of Mexico. Environmental Management 22:547–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Stanturf JA, Goodrick SL, Outcalt KW. 2007. Disturbance and coastal forests: a strategic approach to forest management in hurricane impact zones. Forest Ecology and Management 250:119–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Stralberg D, Brennan M, Callaway JC, Wood JK, Schile LM, Jongsomjit D, Kelly M, Parker VT, Crooks S. 2011. Evaluating tidal marsh sustainability in the face of sea-level rise: a hybrid modeling approach applied to San Francisco Bay. PLoS One 6:e27388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Trenberth KE, Dai A, van der Schrier G, Jones PD, Barichivich J, Briffa KR, Sheffield J. 2013. Global warming and changes in drought. Nature Climate Change 4:17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Voss CM, Christian RR, Morris JT. 2013. Marsh macrophyte responses to inundation anticipate impacts of sea-level rise and indicate ongoing drowning of North Carolina marshes. Marine Biology 160:181–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Wigand C, Ardito T, Chaffee C, Ferguson W, Paton S, Raposa K, Vandemoer C, Watson E. 2017. A climate change adaptation strategy for management of coastal marsh systems. Estuaries and Coasts 40:682–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Williams K, Ewel KC, Stumpf RP, Putz FE, Thomas W, Workman TW. 1999. Sea-level rise and coastal forest retreat on the west coast of Florida, USA. Ecology 80:2045–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Williams K, Macdonald M, Da Silveira L, Sternberg L, Williamst K, Macdonaldt M. 2003. Interactions of storm, drought, and sea-level rise on coastal forest: a case study. Journal of Coastal Research 19:1116–21.Google Scholar
  52. Woodruff JD, Irish JL, Camargo SJ. 2013. Coastal flooding by tropical cyclones and sea-level rise. Nature 504:44–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Forestry and Environmental ResourcesNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  2. 2.Biospheric Sciences LaboratoryNASA Goddard Space Flight CenterGreenbeltUSA

Personalised recommendations