Multiple stable states and catastrophic shifts in coastal wetlands : progress, challenges, and opportunities in validating theory using remote sensing and other methods
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
, p. 10184-10226
University of Antwerp
Multiple stable states are established in coastal tidal wetlands (marshes, mangroves, deltas, seagrasses) by ecological, hydrological, and geomorphological feedbacks. Catastrophic shifts between states can be induced by gradual environmental change or by disturbance events. These feedbacks and outcomes are key to the sustainability and resilience of vegetated coastlines, especially as modulated by human activity, sea level rise, and climate change. Whereas multiple stable state theory has been invoked to model salt marsh responses to sediment supply and sea level change, there has been comparatively little empirical verification of the theory for salt marshes or other coastal wetlands. Especially lacking is long-term evidence documenting if or how stable states are established and maintained at ecosystem scales. Laboratory and field-plot studies are informative, but of necessarily limited spatial and temporal scope. For the purposes of long-term, coastal-scale monitoring, remote sensing is the best viable option. This review summarizes the above topics and highlights the emerging promise and challenges of using remote sensing-based analyses to validate coastal wetland dynamic state theories. This significant opportunity is further framed by a proposed list of scientific advances needed to more thoroughly develop the field.