Coastal wetlands are estimated to capture 70% of the carbon permanently stored in the marine environment. Information on the spatial heterogeneity of soil organic carbon (SOC) and estimated stocks across a wide range of freshwater ecosystems is limited compared to research on “blue” carbon in the marine environment. This lack of understanding compromises the ability of computational models to accurately predict the impacts of disturbance and climate change on global carbon stocks. In the Great Lakes region, freshwater marsh systems are regionally important carbon stores threatened by extreme weather events and increasing lake levels. Lake Erie’s rise is 1-2 orders of magnitude greater than the rates of sea level rise on the oceanic coasts of the United States. The rate of lake level rise relative to erosion or accretion rates will determine whether these wetlands keep pace with rising water levels and are able to sequester carbon, or drown in place, lose carbon and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

This project investigates the factors controlling the chemical nature, spatial distribution and accumulation rates of SOC in a coastal wetland ecosystem within the Lake Erie basin by measuring above ground carbon stocks, soil organic carbon content, sources of organic carbon, and age and accumulation rate of carbon.

The project supports undergraduate and collaborative research efforts across three Commonwealth campuses as part of the Penn State Commonwealth Campus Center Nodes (C3N) initiative for Freshwater Environmental and Ecosystem Research. 

Associated Faculty:

Lisa A. Emili, (Lead/Contact), Associate Professor of Physical Geography and Environmental Studies, Division of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Penn State Altoona,, 814-949-5627.

Anthony M. Foyle, Associate Professor of Geology, School of Science, Penn State Erie, The Behrend College,, 814-898-6277. Lorena Tribe, Professor of Chemistry, Division of Science, Penn State Berks,, 610-396-6187.

Sarah E. Allen, Assistant Professor of Biology, Division of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Penn State Altoona,, 814-949-5510.