This research programme comprises of four integrated work packages
Work Package 1: Quantify carbon pools and fluxes in blue carbon habitats in Ireland.
Understanding how blue carbon ecosystems contribute to climate change mitigation requires an understanding of ecosystem extent, the amount of carbon present in each pool, and how much carbon is emitted or sequestered over time. This WP will provide the baseline data which will meet the IPCC requirements standards for Tier 2 inclusion in UNFCCC National Inventory Reporting.
Work Package 2: Determine what controls carbon preservation in coastal wetland habitats and examine the effect of nitrogen pollution activities on carbon sequestration rates.
Determining what combination of factors controls carbon sequestration in a range of saltmarshes is central to enabling the correct management of these ecosystems and therefore function at optimum carbon preservation capacity. The central idea is that plant production does not control soil carbon pools by simply adding carbon to the system but rather, is an indirect control that regulates the redox potential of the system, along with other features such as hydraulic conductance. This WP will generate a model of the factors controlling carbon preservation rates and will provide data on the effect that overgrazing and N pollution activities are having on carbon sequestration rates.
Work Package 3: Examine climate adaptation measures - assess storm surge attenuation ability, assess the effect of Spartina sward on carbon stocks, and identify areas for managed realignment.
In order to adapt the coastline to sea level rise and other effects of climate change such as the impact and frequency of storm events, we need to first assess functions of wetlands such as the ability to protect against storm surge. Coastal wetland plants interact with water and sediment in a variety of direct and indirect ways that slow water flow, facilitate sediment deposition, increase shoreline cohesion, and build peat. We will model this function and identify management techniques to enhance this ability. In addition, we will assess the direct effect of invasive species Spartina anglica on carbon stocks. A recent meta-analysis (Davidson et al., 2018) found that globally invasive plant species that are structurally similar to native vegetation enhance the carbon content of marshes. However, no work to date has assessed the effect of Spartina anglica on carbon pools in Irish saltmarshes. Wetlands are dynamic ecosystems that constantly build soil, raising the marsh platform. If the wetland is not restricted at the terrestrial side then it will be able to keep pace with sea-level rise. It is imperative that areas, where this realignment can take place, are identified.
Work Package 4: Generate a management framework for the correct management of coastal wetlands based on findings in WP1, WP2, and WP3, disseminate research findings and inform stakeholders on the management of coastal wetlands for carbon benefits.
In order for the findings in WP1, 2 and 3 to have an impact on both the environment and society, we will combine the results and generate a framework of best management practices for coastal wetlands. This framework is intended to provide a range of stakeholders with an understanding of the processes controlling carbon sequestration and storage and practices that may enhance or degrade this function. Therefore, the most recent scientific data will inform management practices through a series of measures and recommendations enabling these ecosystems to function at optimum carbon sequestration capacity and storm-surge protection.