Evaluating a Steady-State Model of Soil Accretion in Everglades Mangroves (Florida, USA)

Abstract

To determine whether mangrove soil accretion can keep up with increasing rates of sea level rise, we modeled the theoretical, steady-state (i.e., excluding hurricane impacts) limits to vertical soil accretion in riverine mangrove forests on the southwest coast of Florida, USA. We measured dry bulk density (BD) and loss on ignition (LOI) from mangrove soils collected over a period of 12 years along an estuarine transect of the Shark River. The plotted relationship between BD and LOI was fit to an idealized mixing model equation that provided estimates of organic and inorganic packing densities in the soils. We used these estimates in combination with measures of root production and mineral deposition to calculate their combined contribution to steady-state, vertical soil accretion. On average, the modeled rates of accretion (0.9 to 2.4 mm year−1) were lower than other measured rates of soil accretion at these sites and far less than a recent estimate of sea level rise in south Florida (7.7 mm year−1). To date, however, no evidence of mangrove “drowning” has been observed in this region of the Everglades, indicating that assumptions of the linear accretion model are invalid and/or other contributions to soil accretion (e.g., additional sources of organic matter; feedbacks between physical sedimentation processes and biological responses to short-term environmental change) make up the accretion deficit. This exercise highlights the potential positive impacts of hurricanes on non-steady-state soil accretion that contribute to the persistence of neotropical mangroves in regions of high disturbance frequency such as the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean region.

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Acknowledgments

An oral presentation of this work was given at the CERF conference in Mobile, AL in 2019 and was recorded in musical form here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfYOn5xUpDI&. We thank Rafael Travieso for field assistance and Josh Breithaupt and an anonymous reviewer for comments that greatly improved the manuscript. We thank the Everglades National Park for granting research permits and the Florida Bay Interagency Science Center-Everglades National Park (FBISC-ENP) for logistic support during the study. This is contribution #997 from the Southeast Environmental Research Center in the Institute of Environment at Florida International University.

Funding

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation through the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research program under Grants No. DEB-9910514, No. DBI-0620409, No. DEB-1237517 and No. DEB-1832229. VHRM participation was supported by the US Department of the Interior–South Central Climate Adaptation Science Center, Cooperative Agreement#G12 AC00002.

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Correspondence to Randolph M. Chambers.

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Communicated by Arnoldo Valle-Levinson

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Chambers, R.M., Gorsky, A.L., Castañeda-Moya, E. et al. Evaluating a Steady-State Model of Soil Accretion in Everglades Mangroves (Florida, USA). Estuaries and Coasts (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-020-00883-1

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Keywords

  • Mangroves
  • Soil accretion
  • Sea level rise
  • Hurricanes
  • Shark River estuary
  • Florida Coastal Everglades