Dr. Lisa M. Schile

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Project Title:  Carbon sequestration and decomposition in coastal vegetated ecosystems: comparison of rates and methodologies across latitudinal gradients

Advisors:  Patrick Megonigal, Andrew Altieri

Recognition that vegetated coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrasses and marshes sequester significant amounts of carbon has garnered strong global interest, yet many gaps in understanding carbon sequestration remain, particularly in variation across habitat types and latitudes. These ecosystems can exceed tropical and temperate forest carbon storage, and considerable anthropogenic and climate change related pressures could convert them to large carbon sources if they are degraded and destroyed. Furthermore, we know far less about how decomposition of plant material, a major biotic process that governs soil carbon, varies in space and time. The primary objective of this research is to measure carbon stocks and decomposition across herbaceous marshes, mangroves, and seagrasses and compare rates among intertidal and subtidal habitats in the Chesapeake Bay, San Francisco Bay, southern Florida, and Panama. Additionally, the sites selected will vary in proximity to anthropogenic disturbance. Two standardized methods for measuring both carbon stocks and decomposition rates will be employed to examine utility and effort and could aid in decision-making about implementing sampling protocols across the Tennenbaum Marine Observatories Network. Understanding differences in processes and rates governing carbon in coastal ecosystems is key to predicting how anthropogenic disturbance could impact carbon cycling.