Team Explores the Recovery, Resilience of a Stressed Salt Marsh

July 29th, 2019 @

Day in and day out for 13 years, scientists slowly dripped fertilizers into a pristine section of salt marsh north of Boston. They were simulating, in a controlled experiment, the pollution that marshes in densely Team Explores the Recovery, Resilience of a Stressed Salt Marshpopulated areas receive from sewage, lawn fertilizer, and other human sources.

By the time they stopped dripping the nutrients — nitrogen and phosphorus — in 2016, they had observed changes in the marsh’s plant and animal community and even in its physical structure.

The creek banks had begun to crack and slump down, indicating that the over the long term, nutrient pollution could be a factor in converting “a vegetated marsh into a mudflat, which is a much less productive ecosystem,” said MBL Fellow Linda Deegan, lead investigator of the project at the Plum Island Ecosystems Long-Term Ecological Research Site (PIE-LTER).

Losses of healthy salt marsh have accelerated in recent decades, with some losses caused by sea-level rise and development. “Salt marshes are a critical interface between the land and sea,” Deegan said. “They provide habitat for fish, birds, and shellfish; protect coastal cities from storms; and take nutrients out of water coming from upland areas, which protects coastal bays from pollution.”

Now, the team wants to know, “Will this marsh be able to recover?” Buoyed by a new, three-year grant from the National Science Foundation, they are watching how the marsh is responding now that the nutrient addition has stopped.

Nutrient addition over 13 years led to cracking and slumping of creek banks in the experimental site. Now, the TIDE team is studying how the salt marsh responds to a reduced nutrient load. Credit: Shanna Baker, MBL Logan Science Journalism Program

“We want to see how microbes, plants and animals respond to a decrease in nutrients,” said Anne Giblin, who directs the MBL Ecosystems Center as well as the PIE-LTER. “We will also see if the changes in the marsh’s physical structure that we observed after fertilization began will continue in the same direction, or reverse course.”

This marks the latest phase in the ecosystem-scale TIDE Project, which began in 2002. The scientists now hope to illuminate “the legacy effects of stress-induced changes (genotypic to landscape) on ecosystem recovery, and the limits of landscape resilience.”

Giblin received this collaborative NSF grant with Deegan, a senior scientist at Woods Hole Research Center, and James A. Nelson, assistant professor at University of Louisiana.

Top photo: Lush cordgrass (Spartina patens) at a salt marsh in Ipswich, Mass., part of the Plum Island Ecosystems study site. Credit: David S. Johnson, TIDE Project

Originally published in: The Well: MBL News from the Source

Scientists Urge Formation of National Network to Accelerate Climate Change Action

April 4th, 2019 @

A non-federal network that will leverage science to manage climate change risks in the United States is urgently needed, recommends a report released today by a group of 36 climate researchers, state/local/tribal officials, and other experts including Jerry Melillo, Distinguished Scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) and former chairman of the U.S. National Climate Assessments.

An early online version of the report, “Evaluating Knowledge to Support Climate Action,” is published today by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. The report summary and a full press release are available here.

The report’s key recommendations are to establish a non-federal network to assess how to apply science in making and implementing decisions; focus these assessments on the common problems and challenges that climate risk managers face; and use new methods such as artificial intelligence to support climate risk management.

“This network will build off the U.S. National Climate Assessments to help communities establish pragmatic, science-based actions and pathways to manage the climate risks that are specific to their region,” said Melillo.

To provide interim leadership for this national network, the group also announced today the establishment of the Science for Climate Action Network (SCAN), which will coordinate preparation of a next-generation of climate assessments and serve as a backbone organization for groups that already are beginning to incorporate climate science in their work.

In 2016, a Federal Advisory Committee was convened to recommend how to increase the application of the National Climate Assessments to inform action. This committee was disbanded by the Trump Administration in 2017, but members and additional experts reconvened as the Independent Advisory Committee to complete the present report.

by Diana Kenney

Originally posted on The Well

 

Rooted in research: A study looks at effects of climate change on a less visible matter

January 15th, 2019 @

Global warming brings to mind scenes of devastating natural disasters and polar bears on shrinking ice caps. But new research is studying the effects of climate change on a less visible matter — interactions between plant roots and the surrounding soil, particularly relative to carbon.

The results of the study could shed light on global warming’s influence on food production and carbon storage.

“This is the frontier of what we don’t understand,” said Marco Keiluweit, a biogeochemist and assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “It will give us the opportunity to explore these broader problems of climate change.”

Full article by Ysabelle Kempe, Globe Correspondent, available on BostonGlobe.com

Team Studies how Viral Infections in Plants may Affect Carbon Storage in Soil

January 9th, 2019 @

Photo illustration by Zoe Cardon

MBL Senior Scientist Zoe Cardon has received a collaborative grant from the Department of Energy to study how viral infections in plants can affect the fate of the largest pool of organic carbon stored in soils: organic carbon bound to minerals.

As carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations in the atmosphere continue to rise, driving further climate change, it becomes more and more urgent to understand how plant roots, soil microbes, and soil minerals interact to control whether soils store carbon or release CO2.

One way that plant roots strongly contribute to soil carbon storage is by producing sugars, organic acids, and even whole cells that are lost to soil. But there is a twist in the story. Certain types of compounds derived from roots may also destabilize the bonds between soil  minerals and existing soil organic matter (SOM), making that SOM more vulnerable to microbial attack and decomposition. Soil carbon loss, instead of storage, may result.

The question then becomes what types of compounds, and how much of them, are lost from plant roots to soils. Cardon and colleagues have found that, upon infection with particular plant viruses, plant roots can lose so many compounds to their surroundings that they become literally “sticky” to the touch. Understanding whether and how these “sticky roots” drive increased decomposition of existing mineral-stabilized soil carbon promises to transform our understanding of the importance of common virus infection for soil carbon dynamics and global change.

Co-principal investigators with Cardon, the lead principal investigator on this project, include Marco Keiluweit, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Carolyn Malmstrom, Michigan State University; and William J Riley, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

 

Originally published in The Well


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