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Human Actions Alter Tidal Marsh Seascapes and the Provision of Ecosystem Services


Tidal marshes are a key component of coastal seascape mosaics that support a suite of socially and economically valuable ecosystem services, including recreational opportunities (e.g., fishing, birdwatching), habitat for fisheries species, improved water quality, and shoreline protection. The capacity for tidal marshes to support these services is, however, threatened by increasingly widespread human impacts that reduce the extent and condition of tidal marshes across multiple spatial scales and that vary substantially through time. Climate change causes species redistribution at continental scales, changes in weather patterns (e.g., rainfall), and a worsening of the effect of coastal squeeze through sea level rise. Simultaneously, the effects of urbanization such as habitat loss, eutrophication, fishing, and the spread of invasive species interact with each other, and with climate change, to fundamentally change the structure and functioning of tidal marshes and their food webs. These changes affect tidal marshes at local scales through changes in plant community composition, complexity, and condition and at regional scales through changes in habitat extent, configuration, and connectivity. However, research into the full effects of these multi-scaled, interactive stressors on ecosystem service provision in tidal marshes is in its infancy and is somewhat geographically restricted. This hinders our capacity to quickly and effectively curb loss and degradation of both tidal marshes and the services they deliver with targeted management actions. We highlight ten priority research questions seeking to quantify the consequences and scales of human impacts on tidal marshes that should be answered to improve management and restoration plans.

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