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Walter and Lalita Janke Innovations in Sustainability Science Research Fund

Do Shrubs Compromise the Resilience of Peatland Carbon Storage in the Florida Everglades

  • Jessica Dell
    PI: Jessica Dell 
  • Adviser: Brian Benscoter
  • Department: Biological Sciences
  • Award: $5,000 

Project Summary: Peatlands provide ecosystem services and store over 30% of global soil carbon within only 3% of the Earth’s surface. Encroachment by woody shrub species threatens the structural and functional stability of the Florida Everglades peatlands. Anthropogenic activities have degraded the Everglades and promoted encroachment by woody Carolina willow shrubs (Salix caroliniana) that are morphologically and physiologically different than the dominant sawgrass species (Cladium jamaicense). Shrub encroachment may reduce the resilience of the Everglades’ carbon storage by altering the mechanisms that maintain the imbalance between production and decomposition. We propose to examine the effect of willow encroachment on carbon cycling processes (production and decomposition) as well as their drivers. Willow is expected to have greater leaf litter production but litterfall will occur as a pulse in the winter. Sawgrass leaf litter will decompose faster but standing willow will increase soil decomposition. Willow is also expected to reduce production and decomposition by reducing surface temperature and light transmittance to understory plants. To examine production, we will use leaf litter traps, fine ingrowth root bags, and biomass harvests. We will use decomposition bags to determine differences in decomposition rates between sawgrass and willow. We will examine light transmittance, temperature, and water quality to examine the effects of willow encroachment on the microclimate. Willow encroachment can have major impacts on carbon storage in the Everglades. Released carbon will ultimately feedback to climate change.

For more information about this project, please contact Jessica Dell at jdell2014@fau.edu.



 Last Modified 11/10/16