Impacts of sea-level rise on salt marsh communities

Sea-level rise is one of the more noticeable threats of climate change to salt marshes. Tidal inundation is also one of the most important structuring forces in salt marshes as inundation drives plant-plant interactions and determines plant zonation. Yet many studies of sea-level rise do not consider whole communities, with a particular dearth of knowledge in Pacific Coast marshes. I have conducted two studies to understand how sea-level rise will impact communities:

  • Experimental simulation of sea-level rise: In this experiment, I sought to determine whether or not plant-plant interactions would be able to rescue communities from the impacts of sea-level rise. I found that in California, sea-level rise increased the strength of competition, likely because higher water levels led to lower salinity, suggesting that salt marsh communities are likely to become less diverse as sea levels rise.
  • Impacts of sea-level rise on genetic diversity: I used satellite and other aerial imagery to track sea-level rise in a Massachusetts salt marsh over several decades and combined that information with genetic diversity data.

Relevant papers: Noto and Shurin 2017