Increasing tidal inundation corresponds to rising porewater nutrient concentrations in a southeastern U.S. salt marsh
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Increasing tidal inundation corresponds to rising porewater nutrient concentrations in a southeastern U.S. salt marsh

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    Salt marshes are ecologically and economically important features of coastal environments that are vulnerable to sea level rise, the rate of which has accelerated in recent decades along the southeastern US Atlantic coast. Increased flooding frequency and duration across the marsh platform is predicted to impact vegetation community structure and overall marsh persistence, but the effect of changing inundation patterns on biogeochemical processes in marsh sediments remains largely unexplored. As part of a long-term monitoring effort to assess how marshes are responding to sea level rise in North Inlet estuary (South Carolina, USA), we collected data on porewater nutrient concentrations from a series of permanent monitoring plots across multiple transects spanning the marsh elevation gradient during the growing season from 2009 to 2019. Additionally, we calculated time inundated for each plot using local water level data and high-resolution elevation measurements to assess the change in time flooded at each plot. Our results indicate that both NH4 and PO4 nutrient concentrations have increased in most permanent plots over the 11-year study period and that nutrient concentrations are higher with increasing proximity to the creek. Spatial patterns in nutrient increases through time are coincident with considerable increases in tidal inundation observed over the marsh platform. Across plots located in the low marsh, porewater NH4 and PO4 concentrations have risen at average rates of 8.96 μM/year and 0.86 μM/year, respectively, and have reached rates as high as 27.25 μM/year and 3.13 μM/year. We suggest that increased inundation time due to rising sea level has altered biogeochemical conditions influencing nutrient availability in marsh porewater, resulting in increases that likely have relevance for larger scale nutrient cycles as well as marsh ecosystem stability and function.
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    PLOS ONE, 17(11), e0278215
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    CC BY
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