Maya Montalvo

University of California, Santa Cruz;Simon Fraser University;Michigan Technological University

Subject Areas: Hydrology

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ABSTRACT:

Salt marshes exist at the terrestrial-marine interface, providing important ecosystem services such as nutrient cycling and carbon sequestration. Tidal inputs play a dominant role in salt marsh porewater mixing, and terrestrially derived freshwater inputs are increasingly recognized as important sources of water and solutes to intertidal wetlands. However, there remains a critical gap in understanding the role of freshwater inputs on salt marsh hydrology, and how this may impact marsh subsurface salinity and plant productivity. Here, we address this knowledge gap by examining the hydrologic behavior, porewater salinity, and pickleweed (Sarcocornia pacifica also known as Salicornia pacifica) plant productivity along a salt marsh transect in an estuary along the central coast of California. Through the installation of a suite of hydrometric sensors and routine porewater sampling and vegetation surveys, we sought to understand how seasonal changes in terrestrial freshwater inputs impact salt marsh ecohydrologic processes. We found that salt marsh porewater salinity, shallow subsurface saturation, and pickleweed productivity are closely coupled with elevated upland water level during the winter and spring, and more influenced by tidal inputs during the summer and fall. This seasonal response indicates a switch in salt marsh hydrologic connectivity with the terrestrial upland that impacts ecosystem functioning. Through elucidating the inter-annual impacts of drought on salt marsh hydrology, we found that the severity of drought and historical precipitation can impact contemporary hydrologic behavior and the duration and timing of the upland-marsh hydrologic connectivity. This implies that the sensitivity of salt marshes to climate change involves a complex interaction between sea level rise and freshwater inputs that vary at seasonal to interannual timescales.

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Elkhorn Slough - Seasonal Terrestrial Hydrology
Created: Oct. 6, 2022, 4:46 p.m.
Authors: Montalvo, Maya

ABSTRACT:

Salt marshes exist at the terrestrial-marine interface, providing important ecosystem services such as nutrient cycling and carbon sequestration. Tidal inputs play a dominant role in salt marsh porewater mixing, and terrestrially derived freshwater inputs are increasingly recognized as important sources of water and solutes to intertidal wetlands. However, there remains a critical gap in understanding the role of freshwater inputs on salt marsh hydrology, and how this may impact marsh subsurface salinity and plant productivity. Here, we address this knowledge gap by examining the hydrologic behavior, porewater salinity, and pickleweed (Sarcocornia pacifica also known as Salicornia pacifica) plant productivity along a salt marsh transect in an estuary along the central coast of California. Through the installation of a suite of hydrometric sensors and routine porewater sampling and vegetation surveys, we sought to understand how seasonal changes in terrestrial freshwater inputs impact salt marsh ecohydrologic processes. We found that salt marsh porewater salinity, shallow subsurface saturation, and pickleweed productivity are closely coupled with elevated upland water level during the winter and spring, and more influenced by tidal inputs during the summer and fall. This seasonal response indicates a switch in salt marsh hydrologic connectivity with the terrestrial upland that impacts ecosystem functioning. Through elucidating the inter-annual impacts of drought on salt marsh hydrology, we found that the severity of drought and historical precipitation can impact contemporary hydrologic behavior and the duration and timing of the upland-marsh hydrologic connectivity. This implies that the sensitivity of salt marshes to climate change involves a complex interaction between sea level rise and freshwater inputs that vary at seasonal to interannual timescales.

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