Comparing the biogeochemistry of storm surge sediments and pre-storm soils in coastal wetlands: Hurricane Irma and the Florida Everglades
Hurricanes can alter the rates and trajectories of biogeochemical cycling in coastal wetlands. Defoliation and vegetation death can lead to increased soil temperatures, and storm surge can variously cause erosion or deposition of sediment leading to changes in soil bulk density, nutrient composition, and redox characteristics. The objective of this study was to compare the biogeochemistry of pre-storm soils and a carbonate-rich sediment layer deposited by Hurricane Irma that made landfall in southwest Florida as a category 3 storm in September 2017. We predicted that indicators of biogeochemical activity (e.g., potential soil respiration rates, microbial biomass (MBC), and extracellular enzyme activities) would be lower in the storm sediment layer because of its lower organic matter content relative to pre-storm soils. There were few differences between the storm sediment and pre-storm soils at two of the sites closest to the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). This suggests that marine deposition regularly influences soil formation at these sites and is not something that occurs only during hurricanes. At a third site, 8 km from the GOM, the pre-storm soils had much greater concentrations of organic matter, total N, total P, MBC, and higher potential respiration rates than the storm layer. At this same site, CO2 fluxes from intact soil cores containing a layer of storm sediment were 30% lower than those without it. This suggests that sediment deposition from storm surge has the potential to preserve historically sequestered carbon in coastal soils through reduced respiratory losses.
Breithaupt, J. L., Hurst, N., Steinmuller, H. E., Duga, E., Smoak, J. M., Kominoski, J. S., & Chambers, L. G. (2019). Comparing the Biogeochemistry of Storm Surge Sediments and Pre-storm Soils in Coastal Wetlands: Hurricane Irma and the Florida Everglades. Estuaries and Coasts. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-019-00607-0