Session: Biogeochemistry: Biogeo Patterns Along Environmental Gradients
Coastal carbon processing rates increase with mangrove cover following a hurricane in Texas, USA
Monday, August 2, 2021
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John S. Kominoski, Department of Biological Sciences, Institute of Environment, Florida International University, Miami, FL, Carolyn A. Weaver, Biology, Millersville University, Millersville, PA; Department of Life Sciences, Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi, Corpus Christi, TX, Anna R. Armitage, Department of Marine Biology, Texas A&M University at Galveston, Galveston, TX and Steven C. Pennings, Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Houston, Houston, TX
John S. Kominoski
Department of Biological Sciences, Institute of Environment, Florida International University Miami, FL, USA
Background/Question/Methods Coastal wetland plant identity and cover is changing, as many subtropical salt marshes dominated by low-stature herbaceous species transition to woody mangroves. How changes in dominant plant species affect carbon processing in coastal wetlands during storms is uncertain. We experimentally manipulated patch-scale (3 × 3 m) cover of black mangroves (Avicennia germinans) and saltmarsh plants (e.g., Spartina alterniflora, Batis maritima) in fringe and interior locations of ten plots (24 × 42 m) to create a gradient in mangrove cover in coastal Texas, USA. Hurricane Harvey made direct landfall over our site on 25 August 2017. To test how mangrove cover affected carbon retention after the storm, we measured litter breakdown rates (k) of A. germinans and S. alterniflora in surface soils and fast- and slow-decomposing standard litter substrates (green and red tea, respectively) in subsurface soils (15 cm depth). Results/Conclusions Soil temperatures were lower in mangrove than marsh patches, and prior microclimate measurements showed non-linear increases in air and soil temperatures with increasing mangrove cover (highest temperatures at intermediate % cover). Litter breakdown rates (k) were 2´ higher in surface than in subsurface soils. Avicennia germinans litter k increased linearly in surface soils with plot-level mangrove cover, whereas slow-decomposing red tea had similar k in subsurface soils of all plots. Litter k of S. alterniflora in surface soils and fast-decomposing green tea in subsurface soils increased non-linearly with mangrove cover (highest k at intermediate % cover), explained largely by temperature. Microbial respiration rates (R) were highest in interior marsh patches for S. alterniflora litter and increased with plot-level mangrove cover, whereas R associated with A. germinans litter was similar among fringe and interior patches and highest at higher mangrove cover. Despite widespread declines in soil nutrient concentrations throughout marsh and mangrove patches in all plots, most surface and subsurface rates of carbon processing increased with mangrove cover in coastal wetlands following a hurricane.