Student Project: Understanding how species interactions may enhance resilience and ecosystem services within urban salt marshes (Zarnoch Lab)

The lab of Dr. Zarnoch is excited to host Summer 2022 BUEE students! Students will be exposed to field and lab studies that seek to quantify (and explore mechanistically) ecosystem services that restored/constructed marine habitats can provide within urban, eutrophic ecosystems. We are particularly interested in nutrient cycling within these habitats and apply biogeochemical approaches to document these processes. Our field work takes us to all parts of the city as we work with environmental organizations performing restoration projects. Our lab work is performed at Baruch College in mid-town Manhattan.

Understanding how species interactions may enhance resilience and ecosystem services within urban salt marshes

Species interactions likely enhance the stability and ecosystem services of coastal marshes, yet they remain a largely overlooked aspect of urban marsh restoration. Mutualistic interactions between ribbed mussels and plants facilitate recovery of marshes following disturbance and likely assist establishment and growth in young, restored marshes. Mussels and plants can provide organic carbon and facilitate diffusion of oxygen and nitrate to sediments, creating conditions that should enhance permanent removal of nitrogen by sediment bacteria, carbon sequestration, and improve local water quality. These effects may be particularly important in young, restored marsh sediments, which contain very little organic matter. Our ongoing research is examining how the addition of ribbed mussels to marsh restoration projects in the Harlem River and Jamaica Bay may promote marsh growth/ sequestration and nitrogen-removal ecosystem services. Students will design field and laboratory experiments, in collaboration with partner organizations, to clarify the mechanisms of marsh/mussel ecosystem services and test the effect of species interactions on salt marsh resilience. This information will improve our ability to plan effective marsh restorations in coastal urban ecosystems.