|Mangrove forest at FCE site SRS-6
The FCE LTER program has a new initiative to determine how the balance of fresh and marine water supplies to the estuarine ecotone will control the rates and pathways of carbon storage and export. This new focus on carbon cycling is an exciting direction for FCE, as understanding the mechanisms of how global, regional, and local processes interact with CO2 uptake, storage, and export is paramount to anticipating how coastal ecosystems will respond to sea level rise and, possibly, the counteracting influence of fresh water restoration. Until recently, little was known about carbon cycling, or mechanisms controlling carbon variability, in coastal ecosystems. Building on our recent findings that mangrove forests sequester globally-relevant quantities of CO2 at rates that are sensitive to climate change and disturbance, we will place a special focus of FCE III biophysical research on how the balance of fresh and marine water supplies influence CO2 uptake, storage, and export, by modifying biological response to three key interacting drivers: phosphorus availability, salinity, and water residence time.
Photo by Stephen Davis
How do these factors affect people in south Florida?
Plants remove CO2 from the atmosphere, and if this uptake exceeds the loss of carbon from the soils they produce, can be a significant sink to help offset the global CO2 rise and associated problems. While we know that mangrove forests and seagrass beds can remove and store large amounts of carbon, we do not know how this important global function will change with sea level rise or restoration of fresh water flows.