Macroclimatic Controls of Coastal Wetland Ecosystem Structure and Function

Science Center Objects

At the global-scale, macroclimatic drivers govern ecosystem structure and function in tidal saline wetlands (e.g., salt marshes, mangrove forests, salt flats). However, global reviews and models for these ecosystems typically do not directly include climatic drivers. The objective of this research is to examine and forecast the effects of macroclimatic drivers on wetland ecosystem structure and function.

Macroclimatic Controls of Coastal Wetland Ecosystem Structure and Function

Macroclimatic Controls of Coastal Wetland Ecosystem Structure and Function

The Science Issue and Relevance: Ecologists and natural resource managers are increasingly challenged to better anticipate and prepare for the ecological effects of climate change. For coastal wetlands, there is a need to better understand the interactive effects of macroclimatic drivers (e.g., air temperature and precipitation regimes). At the global-scale, macroclimatic drivers govern ecosystem structure and function in tidal saline wetlands (e.g., salt marshes, mangrove forests, salt flats). However, global reviews and models for these ecosystems typically do not directly include climatic drivers. The objective of this research is to examine and forecast the effects of macroclimatic drivers on wetland ecosystem structure and function.

Methodology for Addressing the Issue: This research includes two components: (1) Macroecological models for the northern Gulf of Mexico: The northern Gulf of Mexico coast spans two globally-important macroclimatic gradients that provide an opportunity to extend our knowledge and understanding of the effects of climate change on coastal wetlands. This component is being conducted across precipitation and winter air temperature gradients in ten estuaries in five states (TX, LA, MS, AL, and FL). Models are being developed from a combination of field-derived variables (e.g., soil, elevation, plant community) and landscape-level GIS-derived variables (e.g., climate, landscape position).

Macroclimatic Controls of Coastal Wetland Ecosystem Structure and Function

Macroclimatic Controls of Coastal Wetland Ecosystem Structure and Function

(2) A global-scale analysis: In order to better understand the influence of climatic drivers as well as the potential effects of climate change on coastal wetlands, a global synthesis is being conducted which makes the linkages between macroclimatic drivers (e.g., air temperature and precipitation regimes) and ecosystem structure and function in salt marshes and mangrove forests. Ecosystem properties that are being targeted in these analyses include: biomass, canopy height, carbon storage rates and stocks, plant functional group dominance (grass vs. woody vs. succulent vs. unvegetated).

Future Steps: For Component (1): Next steps include data analyses and communication of results from field data collection that was completed in the ten estuaries (~1020 plots in total). For Component (2): A literature review will be followed by data analyses and communication of results.

Publications (in press):

  • Lovelock, C. E., K. W. Krauss, M. J. Osland, R. Reef, and M. C. Ball. In press. The physiology of mangrove trees with changing climate.in G. H. Goldstein and L. S. Santiago, editors. Tropical tree physiology: adaptations and responses in a changing environment. Springer, New York, New York.