Lowly Plants Turning Back Landward Advances of Rising Seas
Baustian, J.J., Mendelssohn, I.A. and Hester, M.W. 2012. Vegetation's importance in regulating surface elevation in a coastal salt marsh facing elevated rates of sea level rise. Global Change Biology 18: 3377-3382.
In further study of the subject, Baustian et al. measured elevation change and surface sediment accretion over a four-year period in recently subsided, unvegetated Louisiana (USA) marshes - caused by prior drought-induced marsh dieback - in pairs of planted (with the dominant salt marsh macrophyte Spartina alterniflora) and unplanted plots, comparing soil and vegetation responses in these plots with paired reference plots that had neither experienced dieback nor subsidence. In doing so, the three U.S. scientists determined that "surface accretion rates were lowest in the unplanted plots at 2.3 mm/year, but increased in the presence of vegetation to 16.4 mm/year in the reference marsh and 26.1 mm/year in the planted plots."
In light of such findings, in the concluding sentence of their paper, Baustian et al. declare that their results "show that under certain real-world circumstances S. alterniflora can cope with increased flooding, and therefore may be able to survive the stresses of future sea level rise."
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