Acute Dieback in Salt Marshes

the biogeochemistry

We are investigating drought-induced stress on key sediment processes in coastal salt marshes. Record droughts in Georgia have induced major alterations in coastal ecosystems, including an alarming increase in the frequency of acute marsh dieback. These events provide the opportunity to conduct a natural experiment examining the consequences of drought-induced plant mortality on a suite of ecosystem services commonly associated with tidal salt marshes. We are using laboratory bioreactor experiments to simulate drought and monitor the resulting impacts on sediment processes.

This research addresses the following questions:

  • What are the consequences of drought on sediment biogeochemical signatures?
  • What is the time-scale of drought-induced geochemical alteration and how long does it take for sediments to recover from drought?
  • How does drought or variability in rainfall alter sediment processes and change sediment-water fluxes in coastal environments?
  • How fast do sediment microbial communities recover from drought-induced stress?


Laura Palomo




Palomo, L., C.D. Meile, and S.B. Joye, 2012. Drought impacts on biogeochemistry and microbial processes in salt marsh sediments: a flow-through reactor approach. Biogeochemistry, doi 10.1001/s10533-012-9734-z.

Bass, P., M.W. Hester, and S.B. Joye, 2013. Benthic primary production and nitrogen cycling in Spartina alterniflora marshes impacted by acute dieback. Biogeochemistry, DOI 10.1007/s10533-013-9897-2.