STEEP-CF: Storm Treatment Effects on Ecosystem Processes of Coastal Forests


Rodrigo Vargas1* (, Angelia Seyfferth1, Anya Hopple2, Benjamin Bond-Lamberty3


1University of Delaware, Newark, DE; 2Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Edgewater, MD; 3Joint Global Change Research Institute, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, College Park, MD


Coastal forests and other coastal ecosystems are influenced by complex hydro-biogeochemical processes, which are heavily impacted by climate change. Increased frequency and intensity of storm events and sea level rise (SLR), already occurring and predicted to accelerate due to climate change, affect biogeochemical processes that ultimately shape ecosystem resiliency and can push these ecosystems into an alternative stable state. This project aims to improve understanding and predictive capacity of ecosystem changes, feedbacks, and subsequent responses to different types of flood disturbances in coastal forests. This project takes advantage of DOE-funded TEMPEST (Terrestrial Ecosystem Manipulation to Probe the Effects of Storm Treatments), a large-scale manipulation experiment that has been established (but treatments have not started) to test flood disturbances of brackish and freshwater pulse events in a temperate coastal forest. Researchers will additionally provide a mechanistic understanding of the processes affected by these disturbance events by performing controlled mesocosm experiments on large intact soil columns obtained from the field site, where flooding events can be carefully manipulated and monitored. This newly funded project will address four knowledge gaps: (1) feedbacks between hydrologic disturbance events and belowground processes; (2) mineral-mediated carbon release after flooding disturbances; (3) successive hydrologic disturbance impacts on soil carbon dioxide and methane flux magnitudes and metabolic pathways; and (4) limitations of soil biogeochemical models under flooding scenarios.