Abstract for: Sea Level Rise and a Species Range Expansion Drive New England Salt Marsh Human and Natural System Feedbacks
Climate change is shifting historic ecosystem functioning and services globally. Salt marshes of the Plum Island Estuary (PIE), MA in particular are experiencing two environmental stressors due to a changing climate: sea level rise (SLR) and the range expansion of the mud fiddler crab Minuca pugnax. SLR and M. pugnax (a burrowing crab) could change PIE marsh area via altered sediment accretion and erosion. PIE marshes support a complex assemblage of species. Ipswich, Rowley, Newbury, and Newburyport MA surround PIE marshes, which likely provide aesthetic ecosystem services (e.g., recreation) for local residents. Therefore, to support PIE sustainability over time, we asked the following research questions: 1) Do PIE salt marshes provide aesthetic ecosystem services to PIE residents; 2) How will SLR and M. pugnax alter marsh area over time; and 3) Will the changes in marsh area impact aesthetic ecosystem services provisioning over time? Our study incorporated surveys of key community stakeholders with Systems Dynamics Modeling via Stock and Flow Diagrams. We demonstrated that combined effects of crabs and SLR reduce marsh area over a 250-year time horizon. Surveys are ongoing; however, once complete, this study will provide practitioners with holistic, transdisciplinary, systems-based methodologies to solve complex environmental challenges.