Ecosystems Center

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The Ecosystems Center carries out research in ecosystems that range from the Arctic to the Antarctic, from Brazil to Martha’s Vineyard. In the Alaskan Arctic, scientists study the effect of warmer temperatures on tundra, stream and lake ecosystems. On the Arctic rivers of Eurasia, they measure how freshwater discharge is changing as the climate warms. On the western Antarctic peninsula, research focuses on the responses of the marine coastal ecosystem to rapid climate warming. In the western Amazon in Brazil, researchers assess how much the clearing of tropical forests will change the amount of greenhouse gas released into the atmosphere, while on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, scientists used controlled burns to restore coastal ecosystems. In central Massachusetts and in Abisko, Sweden, soil warming experiments are conducted to assess the forest’s response to climate warming. In northeastern Massachusetts, scientists study how changes in rural land use and urban development affect the flow of nutrients and organic matter into New England estuaries. In Boston Harbor, they measure the transfer of nitrogen from sediments to the water column as the harbor recovers from decades of sewage addition.

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Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 20 of 449
  • Article
    Biomechanical traits of salt marsh vegetation are insensitive to future climate scenarios
    (Nature Research, 2022-12-08) Paul, Maike ; Bischoff, Christina ; Koop-Jakobsen, Ketil
    Salt marshes provide wave and flow attenuation, making them attractive for coastal protection. It is necessary to predict their coastal protection capacity in the future, when climate change will increase hydrodynamic forcing and environmental parameters such as water temperature and COcontent. We exposed the European salt marsh species Spartina anglica and Elymus athericus to enhanced water temperature (+ 3°) and CO(800 ppm) levels in a mesocosm experiment for 13 weeks in a full factorial design. Afterwards, the effect on biomechanic vegetation traits was assessed. These traits affect the interaction of vegetation with hydrodynamic forcing, forming the basis for wave and flow attenuation. Elymus athericus did not respond to any of the treatments suggesting that it is insensitive to such future climate changes. Spartina anglica showed an increase in diameter and flexural rigidity, while Young's bending modulus and breaking force did not differ between treatments. Despite some differences between the future climate scenario and present conditions, all values lie within the natural trait ranges for the two species. Consequently, this mesocosm study suggests that the capacity of salt marshes to provide coastal protection is likely to remain constantly high and will only be affected by future changes in hydrodynamic forcing.
  • Article
    Editorial: Current advances in seagrass research
    (Frontiers Media, 2023-04-17) Papenbrock, Jutta ; Teichberg, Mirta
    Seagrasses are of great ecological importance, forming large “meadows” in all continents except Antarctica and providing vital ecosystem services including primary production, carbon storage, nutrient cycling, habitat structure, and coastal protection. Seagrasses provide shelter and act as a nursery ground for commercially important small fish and invertebrates. Human activity, however, is having profound impacts on marine ecosystems, including seagrass communities. Over the last few decades anthropogenic changes, including reduced water quality, increased temperature, increased sediment loads, and higher grazing pressure, have caused global declines in seagrass populations and the area coverage of seagrass beds. Due to the valuable ecosystem services that seagrasses provide along coastlines all over the world, strategies to increase recovery of seagrass meadows are being developed; however, further research on seagrass distribution, responses to abiotic and biotic stressors and how that impacts the recovery process, acclimation or adaptation potential, and resilience to environmental change is required to support these strategies. For many regions, the exact distribution and coverage of seagrass are not well known, and simple methods to reliably detect changes in seagrass coverage need to be established for the development of locally successful conservation methods. This Research topic, therefore, aimed to advance seagrass research by bringing together different perspectives on seagrasses that highlight their ecological importance and the effects of anthropogenic pressures, as well as the potential for its recovery and restoration.
  • Article
    Using structure to model function: incorporating canopy structure improves estimates of ecosystem carbon flux in arctic dry heath tundra
    (IOP Publishing, 2023-05-12) Min, Elizabeth ; Naeem, Shahid ; Gough, Laura ; McLaren, Jennie R. ; Rowe, Rebecca J. ; Rastetter, Edward ; Boelman, Natalie ; Griffin, Kevin L.
    Most tundra carbon flux modeling relies on leaf area index (LAI), generally estimated from measurements of canopy greenness using the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), to estimate the direction and magnitude of fluxes. However, due to the relative sparseness and low stature of tundra canopies, such models do not explicitly consider the influence of variation in tundra canopy structure on carbon flux estimates. Structure from motion (SFM), a photogrammetric method for deriving three-dimensional (3D) structure from digital imagery, is a non-destructive method for estimating both fine-scale canopy structure and LAI. To understand how variation in 3D canopy structure affects ecosystem carbon fluxes in Arctic tundra, we adapted an existing NDVI-based tundra carbon flux model to include variation in SFM-derived canopy structure and its interaction with incoming sunlight to cast shadows on canopies. Our study system consisted of replicate plots of dry heath tundra that had been subjected to three herbivore exclosure treatments (an exclosure-free control [CT], large mammals exclosure), and a large and small mammal exclosure [ExLS]), providing the range of 3D canopy structures employed in our study. We found that foliage within the more structurally complex surface of CT canopies received significantly less light over the course of the day than canopies within both exclosure treatments. This was especially during morning and evening hours, and was reflected in modeled rates of net ecosystem exchange (NEE) and gross primary productivity (GPP). We found that in the ExLS treatment, SFM-derived estimates of GPP were significantly lower and NEE significantly higher than those based on LAI alone. Our results demonstrate that the structure of even simple tundra vegetation canopies can have significant impacts on tundra carbon fluxes and thus need to be accounted for.
  • Article
    A trait-based framework for seagrass ecology: trends and prospects
    (Frontiers Media, 2023-03-20) Moreira-Saporiti, Agustín ; Teichberg, Mirta ; Garnier, Eric ; Cornelissen, J. Hans C. ; Alcoverro, Teresa ; Björk, Mats ; Boström, Christoffer ; Dattolo, Emanuela ; Eklöf, Johan S. ; Hasler-Sheetal, Harald ; Marbà, Nuria ; Marín-Guirao, Lázaro ; Meysick, Lukas ; Olivé, Irene ; Reusch, Thorsten B. H. ; Ruocco, Miriam ; Silva, João ; Sousa, Ana I. ; Procaccini, Gabriele ; Santos, Rui
    In the last three decades, quantitative approaches that rely on organism traits instead of taxonomy have advanced different fields of ecological research through establishing the mechanistic links between environmental drivers, functional traits, and ecosystem functions. A research subfield where trait-based approaches have been frequently used but poorly synthesized is the ecology of seagrasses; marine angiosperms that colonized the ocean 100M YA and today make up productive yet threatened coastal ecosystems globally. Here, we compiled a comprehensive trait-based response-effect framework (TBF) which builds on previous concepts and ideas, including the use of traits for the study of community assembly processes, from dispersal and response to abiotic and biotic factors, to ecosystem function and service provision. We then apply this framework to the global seagrass literature, using a systematic review to identify the strengths, gaps, and opportunities of the field. Seagrass trait research has mostly focused on the effect of environmental drivers on traits, i.e., "environmental filtering" (72%), whereas links between traits and functions are less common (26.9%). Despite the richness of trait-based data available, concepts related to TBFs are rare in the seagrass literature (15% of studies), including the relative importance of neutral and niche assembly processes, or the influence of trait dominance or complementarity in ecosystem function provision. These knowledge gaps indicate ample potential for further research, highlighting the need to understand the links between the unique traits of seagrasses and the ecosystem services they provide.
  • Article
    Prospects and challenges of regional modeling frameworks to inform planning for food, energy, and water systems: views of modelers and stakeholders
    (Frontiers Media, 2023-03-21) Tuler, Seth P. ; Webler, Thomas ; Hansen, Robin ; Vörösmarty, Charles J. ; Melillo, Jerry M. ; Wuebbles, Donald J.
    Multisectoral models of regional bio-physical systems simulate policy responses to climate change and support climate mitigation and adaptation planning at multiple scales. Challenges facing these efforts include sometimes weak understandings of causal relationships, lack of integrated data streams, spatial and temporal incongruities with policy interests, and how to incorporate dynamics associated with human values, governance structures, and vulnerable populations. There are two general approaches to developing integrated models. The first involves stakeholder involvement in model design -- a participatory modeling approach. The second is to integrate existing models. This can be done in two ways: by integrating existing models or by a soft-linked confederation of existing models. A benefit of utilizing existing models is the leveraging of validated and familiar models that provide credibility. We report opportunities and challenges manifested in one effort to develop a regional food, energy, and water systems (FEWS) modeling framework using existing bio-physical models. The C-FEWS modeling framework (Climate-induced extremes on the linked food, energy, water system) is intended to identify and evaluate response options to extreme weather in the Midwest and Northeast United States thru the year 2100. We interviewed ten modelers associated with development of the C-FEWS framework and ten stakeholders from government agencies, planning agencies, and non-governmental organizations in New England. We inquired about their perspectives on the roles and challenges of regional FEWS modeling frameworks to inform planning and information needed to support planning in integrated food, energy, and water systems. We also analyzed discussions of meetings among modelers and among stakeholders and modelers. These sources reveal many agreements among modelers and stakeholders about the role of modeling frameworks, their benefits for policymakers, and the types of outputs they should produce. They also identify challenges to developing regional modeling frameworks that couple existing models and balancing model capabilities with stakeholder preferences for information. The results indicate the importance of modelers and stakeholders engaging in dialogue to craft modeling frameworks and scenarios that are credible and relevant for policymakers. We reflect on the implications for how FEWS modeling frameworks comprised of existing bio-physical models can be designed to better inform policy making at the regional scale.
  • Article
    Applying the framework to study climate-induced extremes on food, energy, and water systems (C-FEWS): the role of engineered and natural infrastructures, technology, and environmental management in the United States Northeast and Midwest
    (Frontiers Media, 2023-03-08) Vörösmarty, Charles J. ; Melillo, Jerry M. ; Wuebbles, Donald J. ; Jain, Atul K. ; Ando, Amy W. ; Chen, Mengye ; Tuler, Seth ; Smith, Richard ; Kicklighter, David ; Corsi, Fabio ; Fekete, Balazs ; Miara, Ariel ; Bokhari, Hussain H. ; Chang, Joseph ; Lin, Tzu-Shun ; Maxfield, Nico ; Sanyal, Swarnali ; Zhang, Jiaqi
    Change to global climate, including both its progressive character and episodic extremes, constitutes a critical societal challenge. We apply here a framework to analyze Climate-induced Extremes on the Food, Energy, Water System Nexus (C-FEWS), with particular emphasis on the roles and sensitivities of traditionally-engineered (TEI) and nature-based (NBI) infrastructures. The rationale and technical specifications for the overall C-FEWS framework, its component models and supporting datasets are detailed in an accompanying paper (Vörösmarty et al., this issue). We report here on initial results produced by applying this framework in two important macro-regions of the United States (Northeast, NE; Midwest, MW), where major decisions affecting global food production, biofuels, energy security and pollution abatement require critical scientific support. We present the essential FEWS-related hypotheses that organize our work with an overview of the methodologies and experimental designs applied. We report on initial C-FEWS framework results using five emblematic studies that highlight how various combinations of climate sensitivities, TEI-NBI deployments, technology, and environmental management have determined regional FEWS performance over a historical time period (1980–2019). Despite their relative simplicity, these initial scenario experiments yielded important insights. We found that FEWS performance was impacted by climate stress, but the sensitivity was strongly modified by technology choices applied to both ecosystems (e.g., cropland production using new cultivars) and engineered systems (e.g., thermoelectricity from different fuels and cooling types). We tabulated strong legacy effects stemming from decisions on managing NBI (e.g., multi-decade land conversions that limit long-term carbon sequestration). The framework also enabled us to reveal how broad-scale policies aimed at a particular net benefit can result in unintended and potentially negative consequences. For example, tradeoff modeling experiments identified the regional importance of TEI in the form wastewater treatment and NBI via aquatic self-purification. This finding, in turn, could be used to guide potential investments in point and/or non-point source water pollution control. Another example used a reduced complexity model to demonstrate a FEWS tradeoff in the context of water supply, electricity production, and thermal pollution. Such results demonstrated the importance of TEI and NBI in jointly determining historical FEWS performance, their vulnerabilities, and their resilience to extreme climate events. These infrastructures, plus technology and environmental management, constitute the “policy levers” which can actively be engaged to mitigate the challenge of contemporary and future climate change.
  • Article
    Influence of forest infrastructure on the responses of ecosystem services to climate extremes in the Midwest and Northeast United States from 1980 to 2019
    (Frontiers Media, 2023-03-07) Kicklighter, David W. ; Lin, Tzu-Shun ; Zhang, Jiaqi ; Chen, Mengye ; Vörösmarty, Charles J. ; Jain, Atul K. ; Melillo, Jerry M.
    Forests provide several critical ecosystem services that help to support human society. Alteration of forest infrastructure by changes in land use, atmospheric chemistry, and climate change influence the ability of forests to provide these ecosystem services and their sensitivity to existing and future extreme climate events. Here, we explore how the evolving forest infrastructure of the Midwest and Northeast United States influences carbon sequestration, biomass increment (i.e., change in vegetation carbon), biomass burning associated with fuelwood and slash removal, the creation of wood products, and runoff between 1980 and 2019 within the context of changing environmental conditions and extreme climate events using a coupled modeling and assessment framework. For the 40-year study period, the region’s forests functioned as a net atmospheric carbon sink of 687 Tg C with similar amounts of carbon sequestered in the Midwest and the Northeast. Most of the carbon has been sequestered in vegetation (+771 Tg C) with more carbon stored in Midwestern trees than in Northeastern trees to provide a larger resource for potential wood products in the future. Runoff from forests has also provided 4,651 billion m 3 of water for potential use by humans during the study period with the Northeastern forests providing about 2.4 times more water than the Midwestern forests. Our analyses indicate that climate variability, as particularly influenced by heat waves, has the dominant effect on the ability of forest ecosystems to sequester atmospheric CO 2 to mitigate climate change, create new wood biomass for future fuel and wood products, and provide runoff for potential human use. Forest carbon sequestration and biomass increment appear to be more sensitive to heat waves in the Midwest than the Northeast while forest runoff appears to be more sensitive in the Northeast than the Midwest. Land-use change, driven by expanding suburban areas and cropland abandonment, has enhanced the detrimental heat-wave effects in Midwestern forests over time, but moderated these effects in Northeastern forests. When developing climate stabilization, energy production and water security policies, it will be important to consider how evolving forest infrastructure modifies ecosystem services and their responses to extreme climate events over time.
  • Article
    Intraspecific variation in phenology offers resilience to climate change for Eriophorum vaginatum
    (Canadian Science Publishing, 2021-05-19) Parker, Thomas C. ; Unger, Steven L. ; Moody, Michael L. ; Tang, Jianwu ; Fetcher, Ned
    The phenology of Arctic plants is an important determinant of the pattern of carbon uptake and may be highly sensitive to continued rapid climate change. Eriophorum vaginatum L. (Cyperaceae) has a disproportionate influence over ecosystem processes in moist acidic tundra, but it is unclear whether its growth and phenology will remain competitive in the future. We investigated whether northern tundra ecotypes of E. vaginatum could extend their growing season in response to direct warming and transplanting into southern ecosystems. At the same time, we examined whether southern ecotypes could adjust their growth patterns in order to thrive further north, should they disperse quickly enough. Detailed phenology measurements across three reciprocal transplant gardens over a 2-year period showed that some northern ecotypes were capable of growing for longer when conditions were favourable, but their biomass and growing season length was still shorter than those of the southern ecotype. Southern ecotypes retained large leaf length when transplanted north and mirrored the growing season length better than the others, mainly owing to immediate green-up after snowmelt. All ecotypes retained the same senescence timing, regardless of environment, indicating a strong genetic control. Eriophorum vaginatum may remain competitive in a warming world if southern ecotypes can migrate north.
  • Article
    The C-FEWS framework: Supporting studies of climate-induced extremes on food, energy, and water systems at the regional scale
    (Frontiers Media, 2023-02-06) Vörösmarty, Charles J. ; Melillo, Jerry M. ; Wuebbles, Donald J. ; Jain, Atul K. ; Ando, Amy W. ; Chen, Mengye ; Tuler, Seth ; Smith, Richard ; Kicklighter, David ; Corsi, Fabio ; Fekete, Balazs ; Miara, Ariel ; Bokhari, Hussain H. ; Chang, Joseph ; Lin, Tzu-Shun ; Maxfield, Nico ; Sanyal, Swarnali ; Zhang, Jiaqi ; Vignoles, Daniel
    Climate change continues to challenge food, energy, and water systems (FEWS) across the globe and will figure prominently in shaping future decisions on how best to manage this nexus. In turn, traditionally engineered and natural infrastructures jointly support and hence determine FEWS performance, their vulnerabilities, and their resilience in light of extreme climate events. We present here a research framework to advance the modeling, data integration, and assessment capabilities that support hypothesis-driven research on FEWS dynamics cast at the macro-regional scale. The framework was developed to support studies on climate-induced extremes on food, energy, and water systems (C-FEWS) and designed to identify and evaluate response options to extreme climate events in the context of managing traditionally engineered (TEI) and nature-based infrastructures (NBI). This paper presents our strategy for a first stage of research using the framework to analyze contemporary FEWS and their sensitivity to climate drivers shaped by historical conditions (1980–2019). We offer a description of the computational framework, working definitions of the climate extremes analyzed, and example configurations of numerical experiments aimed at evaluating the importance of individual and combined driving variables. Single and multiple factor experiments involving the historical time series enable two categories of outputs to be analyzed: the first involving biogeophysical entities (e.g., crop production, carbon sequestered, nutrient and thermal pollution loads) and the second reflecting a portfolio of services provided by the region’s TEI and NBI, evaluated in economic terms. The framework is exercised in a series of companion papers in this special issue that focus on the Northeast and Midwest regions of the United States. Use of the C-FEWS framework to simulate historical conditions facilitates research to better identify existing FEWS linkages and how they function. The framework also enables a next stage of analysis to be pursued using future scenario pathways that will vary land use, technology deployments, regulatory objectives, and climate trends and extremes. It also supports a stakeholder engagement effort to co-design scenarios of interest beyond the research domain.
  • Article
    Bottom-up and top-down control of seagrass overgrazing by the sea urchin Tripneustes gratilla
    (Wiley, 2023-01-19) Moreira-Saporiti, Agustín ; Hoeijmakers, Dieuwke ; Reuter, Hauke ; Msuya, Flower E. ; Gese, Katrin ; Teichberg, Mirta
    The lack of top-down control on Tripneustes gratilla, a sea urchin commonly known to graze on seagrass, and the bottom-up control of its feeding preference, led to the overgrazing of seagrass meadows of the species Thalassodendron ciliatum in Changuu Island (Zanzibar Archipelago). The impact of overgrazing on seagrasses was assessed by mapping the presence of grazed versus non-grazed seagrass patches in the study site, while the top-down control on T. gratilla was assessed by measuring the abundance of its fish predators. The feeding preference and distribution of T. gratilla were characterized by calculating the electivity indexes for each seagrass species and measuring sea urchin density, respectively. Approximately half of the patches of T. ciliatum were overgrazed, while predatory fishes of T. gratilla were absent from the site. The Vanderploeg and Scavia's Relativized Electivity Index indicated that T. gratilla had a feeding preference for T. ciliatum, which was also supported by higher urchin densities within T. ciliatum dominated patches. Bottom-up control of grazing activity was observed by quantifying and analyzing morphological, nutritional, and the chemical defense traits of the seagrass in relation to feeding preference and urchin density. Feeding was positively correlated to the seagrass tissue C:P ratio (? = 0.9), whereas urchin density showed no correlations. The bottom-up control of the feeding preference and agglomeration of T. gratilla in T. ciliatum meadows, together with the lack of evidence of substantial top-down control and the long recovery time of T. ciliatum led to the overgrazing of this species at this site. Overgrazing, therefore, was shown to be the result of multiple factors ranging from the traits of the seagrass and feeding preference of T. gratilla, to the abundance of predators in this area.
  • Article
    Predicted warming intensifies the negative effects of nutrient increase on tropical seagrass: a physiological and fatty acid approach
    (Elsevier, 2022-07-26) Beca-Carretero, Pedro ; Azcárate-García, Tomás ; Teichberg, Mirta ; Patra, Priyanka ; Feroze, Farhan ; González, Maria J. ; Medina, Isabel ; Winters, Gidon
    Predicted warming will favour Halophila stipulacea photosynthetic and growth responses. Nutrients reduced Fv/Fm and seagrass production while favouring algae proliferation.Warming enhanced the detrimental effects of eutrophication on seagrasses.Fatty acids unsaturation and elongation indexes can be used as eco-physiological indicators. Ises in temperature and nutrients reduced the accumulation of omega-3 fatty acids.The Gulf of Aqaba (GoA; northern Red Sea) supports extensive seagrass meadows, dominated by the small tropical seagrass species, Halophila stipulacea. Due to its semi-closed structure, in the GoA, regional nutrient loading and global warming are considered the biggest threats to local seagrass meadows, and their combination can potentially amplify their negative impacts. Using a seagrass-dedicated mesocosm, we exposed two seagrass populations with different local “nutrient history” to control (27 °C) and simulated warming (31 °C), with and without nutrients (20 µM DIN). Following four weeks of these treatments (“stress phase”), all plants were returned to control conditions (“recovery phase”) for another three weeks. Results showed that exposure to only thermal stress favoured growth, compared to exposure to only nutrient increase that reduced Fv/Fm and growth but favoured algae proliferation. Exposure to the combined thermal and nutrient stress, negatively affected seagrass performance resulting in high mortality observed after four weeks of combined exposure. The negative effects of combined stressors were stronger in populations with low “nutrient history”. Additionally, we propose two novel fatty acid (FA) biomarkers, one based on FA unsaturation, 16:3n-3/16:2n-6, and the other on FA elongation processes, 18:2n-6/16:2n-6. Fatty acid analyses showed a significant decrease in 16:3n-3/16:2n-6 and 18:3n-3/18:2n-6 with increases in temperature and nutrients; a more drastic decline was found under the interaction of both stressors. Our results point out that C16 PUFAs, that are synthesized within the “prokaryotic pathway”, are more sensitive to thermal and the combined thermal + nutrients stressors than C18 PUFAs, which are synthesized within the “eukaryotic pathway”. In general, following a month of control conditions, a clear recovery of most of the seagrass descriptors was observed, highlighting the great capability of Halophila stipulacea to recover from stress conditions. Our results have important ecological and management implications to the seagrass meadows in the GoA and elsewhere. For seagrasses to survive climate change, managers must put efforts into limiting other stressors such as eutrophication that would potentially reduce the seagrass resilience to climate change.
  • Article
    Substrate availability and not thermal acclimation controls microbial temperature sensitivity response to long‐term warming
    (Wiley, 2022-11-30) Domeignoz‐Horta, Luiz A. ; Pold, Grace ; Erb, Hailey ; Sebag, David ; Verrecchia, Eric ; Northen, Trent ; Louie, Katherine ; Eloe‐Fadrosh, Emiley ; Pennacchio, Christa ; Knorr, Melissa A. ; Frey, Serita D. ; Melillo, Jerry M. ; DeAngelis, Kristen M.
    Microbes are responsible for cycling carbon (C) through soils, and predicted changes in soil C stocks under climate change are highly sensitive to shifts in the mechanisms assumed to control the microbial physiological response to warming. Two mechanisms have been suggested to explain the long‐term warming impact on microbial physiology: microbial thermal acclimation and changes in the quantity and quality of substrates available for microbial metabolism. Yet studies disentangling these two mechanisms are lacking. To resolve the drivers of changes in microbial physiology in response to long‐term warming, we sampled soils from 13‐ and 28‐year‐old soil warming experiments in different seasons. We performed short‐term laboratory incubations across a range of temperatures to measure the relationships between temperature sensitivity of physiology (growth, respiration, carbon use efficiency, and extracellular enzyme activity) and the chemical composition of soil organic matter. We observed apparent thermal acclimation of microbial respiration, but only in summer, when warming had exacerbated the seasonally‐induced, already small dissolved organic matter pools. Irrespective of warming, greater quantity and quality of soil carbon increased the extracellular enzymatic pool and its temperature sensitivity. We propose that fresh litter input into the system seasonally cancels apparent thermal acclimation of C‐cycling processes to decadal warming. Our findings reveal that long‐term warming has indirectly affected microbial physiology via reduced C availability in this system, implying that earth system models including these negative feedbacks may be best suited to describe long‐term warming effects on these soils.Warming can accelerate or decelerate soil microbial response to warmer temperatures. Here we provide support for the hypothesis that microbial temperature sensitivity is contingent upon substrate availability, which itself is reduced by warming. Thus we show the complex interplay between microbial activity and changes in soil carbon stocks.
  • Article
    Higher Temperature Sensitivity of Ecosystem Respiration in Low Marsh Compared to High Elevation Marsh Ecosystems
    (American Geophysical Union, 2022-10-22) Carey, Joanna C. ; Kroeger, Kevin D. ; Tang, Jianwu
    Salt marsh habitats contain some of the highest quantities of soil organic carbon (C) per unit area, but increasing anthropogenic stressors threaten their ability to maintain themselves as large C reservoirs in some regions. We quantify rates of C gas exchange (methane [CH4] and carbon dioxide [CO2]) monthly across a 16‐month period from a low nitrogen “reference” salt marsh on Cape Cod in New England using static chambers. While the summer period is the most dynamic period of marsh C gas exchange, we observed substantial fluxes in the early summer through late fall, highlighting the importance of including shoulder seasons in studies of marsh C exchange. We estimate annual ecosystem respiration between 108 and 252 g C m−2 yr−1, which varied based on temperature and elevation. This flux is lower than in other nearby marshes, which we attribute to the frequently inundated, microtidal nature of the site, resulting in the majority of respired CO2 being exported via lateral, not vertical, fluxes from this marsh. We observed significantly higher temperature sensitivity from the low elevation of the marsh compared to the high marsh. Recent acceleration in the rate of sea level rise is leading to a well‐documented expansion of low marsh into high marsh vegetation zones in this marsh system and others in the region. While rates of C burial are higher in the low marsh compared to the high marsh, the higher temperature sensitivity of respiration in the low marsh may diminish the longevity of marsh C stocks with climate warming.
  • Article
    Environmental calibration of coral luminescence as a proxy for terrigenous dissolved organic carbon concentration in tropical coastal oceans
    (American Geophysical Union, 2022-08-27) Kaushal, Nikita ; Tanzil, Jani T. I. ; Zhou, Yongli ; Ong, Maria Rosabelle ; Goodkin, Nathalie F. ; Martin, Patrick
    The riverine flux of terrigenous dissolved organic matter (tDOM) to the ocean is a significant contributor to the global carbon cycle. In response to anthropogenic drivers the flux is expected to increase. This may impact the availability of sunlight in coastal ecosystems, and the seawater carbonate system and coastal CO2 fluxes. Despite its significance, there are few long‐term and high‐resolution time series of tDOM parameters. Corals incorporate fluorescent tDOM molecules from the chromophoric dissolved organic matter (CDOM) pool in their skeletons. The resulting coral skeletal luminescence variability has traditionally been used to reconstruct hydroclimate variation. Here, we use two replicate coral cores and concurrent in‐situ biogeochemical data from the Sunda Shelf Sea in Southeast Asia, where peatlands supply high tDOM inputs, to show that variability in coral luminescence green‐to‐blue ratios (coral G/B) can be used to quantitatively reconstruct terrigenous dissolved organic carbon (tDOC) concentration. Moreover, coral G/B can be used to reconstruct the CDOM absorption spectrum from 230 to 550 nm, and the specific ultraviolet absorbance at 254 nm (SUVA254) of the DOM pool. Comparison to a core from Borneo shows that there may be site‐specific offsets in the G/B–CDOM absorption relationship, but that the slope of the relationship is very similar, validating the robustness of the proxy. By demonstrating that corals can be used to estimate past changes in coastal tDOC and CDOM, we establish a method to study drivers of land–ocean tDOM fluxes and their ecological consequences in tropical coastal seas over decadal to centennial time scales.
  • Article
    Effects of long-term climate trends on the methane and CO2 exchange processes of Toolik Lake, Alaska
    (Frontiers Media, 2022-09-13) Eugster, Werner ; DelSontro, Tonya ; Laundre, James A. ; Dobkowski, Jason ; Shaver, Gaius R. ; Kling, George W.
    Methane and carbon dioxide effluxes from aquatic systems in the Arctic will affect and likely amplify global change. As permafrost thaws in a warming world, more dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and greenhouse gases are produced and move from soils to surface waters where the DOC can be oxidized to CO2 and also released to the atmosphere. Our main study objective is to measure the release of carbon to the atmosphere via effluxes of methane (CH 4) and carbon dioxide (CO2) from Toolik Lake, a deep, dimictic, low-arctic lake in northern Alaska. By combining direct eddy covariance flux measurements with continuous gas pressure measurements in the lake surface waters, we quantified the k600 piston velocity that controls gas flux across the air–water interface. Our measured k values for CH4 and CO2 were substantially above predictions from several models at low to moderate wind speeds, and only converged on model predictions at the highest wind speeds. We attribute this higher flux at low wind speeds to effects on water-side turbulence resulting from how the surrounding tundra vegetation and topography increase atmospheric turbulence considerably in this lake, above the level observed over large ocean surfaces. We combine this process-level understanding of gas exchange with the trends of a climate-relevant long-term (30 + years) meteorological data set at Toolik Lake to examine short-term variations (2015 ice-free season) and interannual variability (2010–2015 ice-free seasons) of CH4 and CO2 fluxes. We argue that the biological processing of DOC substrate that becomes available for decomposition as the tundra soil warms is important for understanding future trends in aquatic gas fluxes, whereas the variability and long-term trends of the physical and meteorological variables primarily affect the timing of when higher or lower than average fluxes are observed. We see no evidence suggesting that a tipping point will be reached soon to change the status of the aquatic system from gas source to sink. We estimate that changes in CH4 and CO2 fluxes will be constrained with a range of +30% and −10% of their current values over the next 30 years.
  • Article
    Editorial: the oceanic particle flux and its cycling within the deep water column
    (Frontiers Media, 2022-09-09) Conte, Maureen H. ; Pedrosa-Pamies, Rut ; Honda, Makio C. ; Herndl, Gerhard J.
    The oceanic particle flux transfers energy and material from the surface through the water column to the seafloor. (See review by Conte (2019) and references therein). The particle flux fuels life below the sunlit photic zone, exerts a major control on the global cycling of carbon and particle-associated elements, and also plays a major role in long-term carbon sequestration. In this Research Topic we present a collection of articles that provide a broad overview of current research on the interlinked processes controlling the magnitude and composition of the oceanic particle flux, and its cycling and depth attenuation within the deep water column.
  • Article
    Cross-site comparisons of dryland ecosystem response to climate change in the US long-term ecological research network
    (Oxford University Press, 2022-08-16) Hudson, Amy R. ; Peters, Debra P. C. ; Blair, John M. ; Childers, Daniel L. ; Doran, Peter T. ; Geil, Kerrie L. ; Gooseff, Michael N. ; Gross, Katherine ; Haddad, Nick M. ; Pastore, Melissa A. ; Rudgers, Jennifer A. ; Sala, Osvaldo E. ; Seabloom, Eric W. ; Shaver, Gaius R.
    Long-term observations and experiments in diverse drylands reveal how ecosystems and services are responding to climate change. To develop generalities about climate change impacts at dryland sites, we compared broadscale patterns in climate and synthesized primary production responses among the eight terrestrial, nonforested sites of the United States Long-Term Ecological Research (US LTER) Network located in temperate (Southwest and Midwest) and polar (Arctic and Antarctic) regions. All sites experienced warming in recent decades, whereas drought varied regionally with multidecadal phases. Multiple years of wet or dry conditions had larger effects than single years on primary production. Droughts, floods, and wildfires altered resource availability and restructured plant communities, with greater impacts on primary production than warming alone. During severe regional droughts, air pollution from wildfire and dust events peaked. Studies at US LTER drylands over more than 40 years demonstrate reciprocal links and feedbacks among dryland ecosystems, climate-driven disturbance events, and climate change.
  • Article
    The diversity and functional capacity of microbes associated with coastal macrophytes
    (American Society for Microbiology, 2022-08-22) Miranda, Khashiff ; Weigel, Brooke L. ; Fogarty, Emily C. ; Veseli, Iva A. ; Giblin, Anne E. ; Eren, A. Murat ; Pfister, Catherine A.
    Coastal marine macrophytes exhibit some of the highest rates of primary productivity in the world. They have been found to host a diverse set of microbes, many of which may impact the biology of their hosts through metabolisms that are unique to microbial taxa. Here, we characterized the metabolic functions of macrophyte-associated microbial communities using metagenomes collected from 2 species of kelp (Laminaria setchellii and Nereocystis luetkeana) and 3 marine angiosperms (Phyllospadix scouleri, P. serrulatus, and Zostera marina), including the rhizomes of two surfgrass species (Phyllospadix spp.), the seagrass Zostera marina, and the sediments surrounding P. scouleri and Z. marina. Using metagenomic sequencing, we describe 63 metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) that potentially benefit from being associated with macrophytes and may contribute to macrophyte fitness through their metabolic activity. Host-associated metagenomes contained genes for the use of dissolved organic matter from hosts and vitamin (B1, B2, B7, B12) biosynthesis in addition to a range of nitrogen and sulfur metabolisms that recycle dissolved inorganic nutrients into forms more available to the host. The rhizosphere of surfgrass and seagrass contained genes for anaerobic microbial metabolisms, including nifH genes associated with nitrogen fixation, despite residing in a well-mixed and oxygenated environment. The range of oxygen environments engineered by macrophytes likely explains the diversity of both oxidizing and reducing microbial metabolisms and contributes to the functional capabilities of microbes and their influences on carbon and nitrogen cycling in nearshore ecosystems.
  • Article
    Diel light cycles affect phytoplankton competition in the global ocean
    (Wiley, 2022-07-02) Tsakalakis, Ioannis ; Follows, Michael J. ; Dutkiewicz, Stephanie ; Follett, Christopher L. ; Vallino, Joseph J.
    Aim Light, essential for photosynthesis, is present in two periodic cycles in nature: seasonal and diel. Although seasonality of light is typically resolved in ocean biogeochemical–ecosystem models because of its significance for seasonal succession and biogeography of phytoplankton, the diel light cycle is generally not resolved. The goal of this study is to demonstrate the impact of diel light cycles on phytoplankton competition and biogeography in the global ocean. Location Global ocean. Major taxa studied Phytoplankton. Methods We use a three-dimensional global ocean model and compare simulations of high temporal resolution with and without diel light cycles. The model simulates 15 phytoplankton types with different cell sizes, encompassing two broad ecological strategies: small cells with high nutrient affinity (gleaners) and larger cells with high maximal growth rate (opportunists). Both are grazed by zooplankton and limited by nitrogen, phosphorus and iron. Results Simulations show that diel cycles of light induce diel cycles in limiting nutrients in the global ocean. Diel nutrient cycles are associated with higher concentrations of limiting nutrients, by 100% at low latitudes (−40° to 40°), a process that increases the relative abundance of opportunists over gleaners. Size classes with the highest maximal growth rates from both gleaner and opportunist groups are favoured by diel light cycles. This mechanism weakens as latitude increases, because the effects of the seasonal cycle dominate over those of the diel cycle. Main conclusions Understanding the mechanisms that govern phytoplankton biogeography is crucial for predicting ocean ecosystem functioning and biogeochemical cycles. We show that the diel light cycle has a significant impact on phytoplankton competition and biogeography, indicating the need for understanding the role of diel processes in shaping macroecological patterns in the global ocean.
  • Article
    Sporadic P limitation constrains microbial growth and facilitates SOM accumulation in the stoichiometrically coupled, acclimating microbe-plant-soil model
    (Elsevier, 2021-11-29) Pold, Grace ; Kwiatkowski, Bonnie L. ; Rastetter, Edward B. ; Sistla, Seeta A.
    Requirements for biomass carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P) constrain organism growth and are important agents for structuring ecosystems. Arctic tundra habitats are strongly nutrient limited as decomposition and recycling of nutrients are slowed by low temperature. Modeling interactions among these elemental cycles affords an opportunity to explore how disturbances such as climate change might differentially affect these nutrient cycles. Here we introduce a C–N–P-coupled version of the Stoichiometrically Coupled Acclimating Microbe-Plant-Soil (SCAMPS) model, “SCAMPS-CNP”, and a corresponding modified CN-only model, “SCAMPS-CN”. We compared how SCAMPS-CNP and the modified SCAMPS-CN models project a moderate (RCP 6.0) air warming scenario will impact tussock tundra nutrient availability and ecosystem C stocks. SCAMPS-CNP was characterized by larger SOM and smaller organism C stocks compared to SCAMPS-CN, and a greater reduction in ecosystem C stocks under warming. This difference can largely be attributed to a smaller microbial biomass in the CNP model, which, instead of being driven by direct costs of P acquisition, was driven by variable resource limitation due to asynchronous C, N, and P availability and demand. Warming facilitated a greater relative increase in plant and microbial biomass in SCAMPS-CNP, however, facilitated by increased extracellular enzyme pools and activity, which more than offset the metabolic costs associated with their production. Although the microbial community was able to flexibly adapt its stoichiometry and become more bacteria-like (N-rich) in both models, its stoichiometry deviated further from its target value in the CNP model because of the need to balance cellular NP ratio. Our results indicate that seasonality and asynchrony in resources affect predicted changes in ecosystem C storage under warming in these models, and therefore build on a growing body of literature indicating stoichiometry should be considered in carbon cycling projections.