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Will a rising sea sink some estuarine wetland ecosystems? / S.E. Grenfell; R.M. Callaway; M.C. Grenfell; C.M. Bertelli; A.F. Mendzil; I. Tew; Ruth Callaway; Chiara Bertelli; Anouska Mendzil
Science of The Total Environment, Volume: 554-555, Pages: 276 - 292
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DOI (Published version): 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.02.196
Sea-level rise associated with climate change presents a major challenge to plant diversity and ecosystem serviceprovision in coastal wetlands. In this study, we investigate the effect of sea-level rise on benthos, vegetation, andecosystem diversity in a tidal wetland in west Wales, the UK. Present...
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Sea-level rise associated with climate change presents a major challenge to plant diversity and ecosystem serviceprovision in coastal wetlands. In this study, we investigate the effect of sea-level rise on benthos, vegetation, andecosystem diversity in a tidal wetland in west Wales, the UK. Present relationships between plant communitiesand environmental variables were investigated through 50 plots at which vegetation (species and coverage), hydrological(surface or groundwater depth, conductivity) and soil (matrix chroma, presence or absence of mottles,organic content, particle size) data were collected. Benthic communities were sampled at intervals along a continuumfrom saline to freshwater. To ascertain future changes to the wetlands' hydrology, a GIS-based empiricalmodel was developed. Using a LiDAR derived land surface, the relative effect of peat accumulation and rising sealevels were modelled over 200 years to determine how frequently portions of the wetland will be inundated bymean sea level, mean high water spring and mean high water neap conditions. The model takes into accountchanging extents of peat accumulation as hydrological conditions alter.Model results show that changes to the wetland hydrology will initially be slow. However, changes in frequencyand extent of inundation reach a tipping point 125 to 175 years from 2010 due to the extremely low slope of thewetland. From then onwards, large portions of the wetland become flooded at every flood tide and saltwater intrusionbecomes more common. This will result in a reduction in marsh biodiversity with plant communitiesswitching toward less diverse and occasionally monospecific communities that are more salt tolerant.
Coastal wetland, Accretion model, LiDAR, Sea level rise
College of Science