Georgia Scientists Study Salt Marsh To Understand Global Warming

An interdisciplinary team of scientists has found a surprisingly high rate of carbon and nutrient turnover by microbes in one of Georgia's coastal salt marshes, a highly productive ecosystem.

The team of researchers, all associated with the Georgia Institute of Technology, is conducting a long-term study at Sapelo Island, Ga., to examine the marsh's biogeochemical processes — that is, the exchange of biogeochemical elements such as carbon, phosphorus, nutrients and metals between living and non-living components of the environment. They want to know how these processes relate to the productivity, faunal activity and hydrology of the marsh system. An understanding of these relationships is crucial to predicting the effects of global warming on the coastal environment.

They are presenting their findings to date at the joint meeting of the Ecological Society of America and the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography to be held June 7 -12 in St. Louis, Mo. This presentation is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. June 11 in the conference facilities at the Adam's Mark Hotel.

"We observed some of the highest rates of organic matter decomposition ever measured in marine systems," said Dr. Joel Kostka, a Georgia Tech adjunct assistant professor and a researcher at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, a research unit of the University System of Georgia. One reason for the higher than expected results may have been the length of time the study was conducted; very few studies have looked at decomposition rates by microorganisms over a two-year period, as this ongoing study has done, Kostka added.

Researchers believe microorganisms in salt marsh sediments play a significant role in the cycling of materials in the ecosystem. By examining microorganisms, such as bacteria that occur in salt marsh sediments, the scientists hope to determine what drives microbial activity. By looking at the marsh environment across several seasons, they are learning how the n

Contact: Jane Sanders
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News

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