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Wrack enhancement of post-hurricane vegetation and geomorphological recovery in a coastal dune
PLOS ONE, Volume: 17, Issue: 8, Start page: e0273258
Swansea University Authors: Matt Joyce, Davide De Battisti, John Griffin
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DOI (Published version): 10.1371/journal.pone.0273258
Coastal ecosystems such as sand dunes, mangrove forests, and salt marshes provide natural storm protection for vulnerable shorelines. At the same time, storms erode and redistribute biological materials among coastal systems via wrack. Yet how such cross-ecosystem subsidies affect post-storm recover...
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Coastal ecosystems such as sand dunes, mangrove forests, and salt marshes provide natural storm protection for vulnerable shorelines. At the same time, storms erode and redistribute biological materials among coastal systems via wrack. Yet how such cross-ecosystem subsidies affect post-storm recovery is not well understood. Here, we report an experimental investigation into the effect of storm wrack on eco-geomorphological recovery of a coastal embryo dune in north-eastern Florida, USA, following hurricane Irma. We contrasted replicated 100-m2 wrack-removal and unmanipulated (control) plots, measuring vegetation and geomorphological responses over 21 months. Relative to controls, grass cover was reduced 4-fold where diverse storm wrack, including seagrass rhizomes, seaweed, and wood, was removed. Wrack removal was also associated with a reduction in mean elevation, which persisted until the end of the experiment when removal plots had a 14% lower mean elevation than control plots. These results suggest that subsides of wrack re-distributed from other ecosystem types (e.g. seagrasses, macroalgae, uplands): i) enhances the growth of certain dune-building grasses; and ii) boosts the geomorphological recovery of coastal dunes. Our study also indicates that the practice of post-storm beach cleaning to remove wrack–a practice widespread outside of protected areas–may undermine the resilience of coastal dunes and their services.
Data Availability Statement: All files are available from the EID (Environmental Information Data Centre), https://doi.org/10.5285/0c93703a-c185-4dd9-b8d7-8d3698535245.
Faculty of Science and Engineering
This research was funded by NERC Urgency grant NE/R016593/1 to JG (https://www.ukri.org/opportunity/nerc-urgency-funding/) and NSF CAREER Grant 1652628 to CA (https://beta.nsf.gov/funding/opportunities/faculty-early-careerdevelopment-program-career).