Coastal barrier islands serve a vital role in the ecology of coastal ecosystems, providing the physical barriers needed for the formation of the highly productive coastal wetlands of many major continents. Global warming will bring higher sea levels and an increased frequency of intense oceanic storms such as hurricanes, a particularly acute threat to barrier island ecosystems. Ecologically, we are interested in the general understanding of the impacts of extreme episodic events (EEE) on the adaptive capabilities of a species. How do EEE influence the adaptive capabilities of a species compare to the more regular day-to-day stress factors associated with this land-sea interface? Our studies are focusing on the ecophysiological effects of EEE on the most vulnerable embryo and primary dune species. Specifically, we are comparing annual impacts of EEE on photosynthetic carbon gain and reproductive success to evaluate effects on species fitness.(Tom Hancock and Heather Joesting)
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