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11-01-2021 | Issue 2/2021

Environmental Management 2/2021

Restoring Fringing Tidal Marshes for Ecological Function and Ecosystem Resilience to Moderate Sea-level Rise in the Northern Gulf of Mexico

Journal:
Environmental Management > Issue 2/2021
Authors:
Sara Martin, Eric L. Sparks, Adam J. Constantin, Just Cebrian, Julia A. Cherry
Important notes

Supplementary information

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s00267-020-01410-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Abstract

Tidal marshes are increasingly vulnerable to degradation or loss from eutrophication, land-use changes, and accelerating sea-level rise, making restoration necessary to recover ecosystem services. To evaluate effects of restoration planting density and sea-level rise on ecosystem function (i.e., nitrogen removal), we restored three marshes, which differed in elevation, at Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Alabama, USA and planted them with Juncus roemerianus sods at 0, 25, 50, 75, or 100% initial cover. We simulated future sea level using passive weirs that increased flooding during low tide. Because additional species emerged shortly after transplantation, we also tested for treatment effects on community structure. In all marshes, species richness increased following restoration, regardless of treatments, while relative abundances of new species tended to increase with increasing initial cover. Plant percent cover increased with increasing initial cover in all marshes, with similar vegetated cover at 50, 75, and 100% after 3 years in the highest elevation marsh. Porewater dissolved inorganic nitrogen concentrations ([DIN]) decreased with increasing initial cover in all marshes, and were significantly lower in 50, 75, and 100% treatments than 0 or 25% after 1 year. Furthermore, [DIN] was similarly low among 50, 75, and 100% treatments when elevation capital was highest. These results suggest that intermediate initial cover (50%) can recover plant cover and promote nitrogen removal when elevation capital is adequate at relatively lower labor and material costs than planting at higher cover, thereby maximizing restoration outcomes in the face of low to moderate sea-level rise.

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