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Considering coasts: Adapting terrestrial models to characterize coastal wetland ecosystems...

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Ecological Modelling
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The Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM) simulates fully coupled processes and interactions among water, energy, carbon and nutrient cycles. E3SM connects vegetation and soil dynamics through nutrient uptake, plant production, litterfall and decomposition as a function of abiotic parameters (e.g. temperature and moisture). However, E3SM is designed to characterize terrestrial ecosystems and connects land and open ocean systems using a single streamflow transport term, ignoring the complex dynamics of energy, water, carbon, and nutrients in coastal systems. The goals of our project were to: (1) Parameterize a point version of E3SM to capture coastal wetland habitats and (2) Determine marsh community responses to increased temperature and elevated CO2. We adapted a version of the E3SM land model, previously configured to represent forested bog hydrology to a coastal ecosystem using datasets from field experiments conducted at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center's Global Change Research Wetland (GCReW). Tidal forcing in a marsh environment was simulated using a two-column system in which the columns are connected by lateral hydrologic flows. One column simulates interactions between vegetation and soil while a second column simulates variation in water level (both tidal and sea level rise). The updated model captures many aspects of the field experiments, showing that plant community responses to environmental change are non-linear, non-additive and different between plant types. Elevated CO2 treatments increased C3 plant biomass more than C4 (33% vs 17%). Temperature exacerbated CO2 responses in C3 plants (0 °C: 26%, 5.1 °C: 56%). We were more successful at characterizing C3 than C4 responses and simulating above rather than belowground biomass production. Next steps will include updates to key physiological parameters such as root:shoot carbon allocation and the addition of mechanistic feedbacks between vegetation and biogeochemical processes.