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Research in the Breithaupt Lab

My research focuses on interactions between soil, water and the atmosphere that are biologically mediated by wetland plants, soil microbes, benthic invertebrates and human disturbance. Coastal depositional systems accumulate vast stores of sediments that can preserve a record of environmental conditions over time. In coastal wetlands this includes sequestration of carbon in peat soils that have developed under rates of sea level rise that have been driven by slow and steady deglaciation since the last ice age. Under global warming, sea levels are now rising faster than they have in the locations where most existing coastal wetlands developed. This threatens to drown coastal vegetation and destabilize the soils, with uncertain consequences for the buried carbon and nutrients. Added pressures include the increasing frequency and strength of tropical storms and the alteration of shorelines and coastal ecosystems because of human activity.

Specific research activities that I am engaged in include:

  • Utilizing biogeochemical measures to assess ecosystem health as part of the Apalachicola Bay System Initiative (ABSI)
  • Present day responses and geologic records of how coastal ecosystems (including oyster reefs and wetlands) respond to acute and chronic changes
  • The effect of nutrients added to shorelines via wrack deposition or eutrophication
  • Temporal and spatial variability of geomorphic and biogeochemical effects from large storms
  • Interaction between coastal communities including oyster reefs, mangroves, salt and freshwater marshes, and seagrass meadows.