About Us

Our Mission

In the Coastal and Wetlands Ecology Laboratory, we examine the community-level interactions and processes that structure coastal ecosystems. Our work spans many coastal habitats, including salt marshes, mangroves, tidal mudflats, seagrass beds, and tidal freshwater wetlands. We are particularly interested in changes in trophic interactions following habitat restoration, nutrient enrichment, or other anthropogenic alterations. In addition, we investigate how plant and animal diversity influence ecosystem functions such as nutrient cycling, nursery habitat, and water quality. We utilize field experiments and a wide array of analytical procedures (stable isotopes, HPLC, stoichiometry) to investigate community dynamics in tropical, subtropical, and temperate environments.

Our ultimate goal is to incorporate our understanding of coastal ecosystem dynamics and processes into the management of restored and anthropogenically impacted habitats. We seek to apply our findings to the design and management of restored coastal wetlands, maintenance of water quality standards in local watersheds, and coastal habitat management in the face of near-term climate change and sea level rise.

Research Projects

Our current research evaluates the influence of habitat restoration, nutrient enrichment, climate change, and other anthropogenic disturbances on coastal wetlands, mangroves, and subtidal seagrass beds. Current projects include:

Do mangroves provide better coastal protection than salt marshes? A Hurricane Harvey case study

On the Texas coast, black mangroves are becoming more common, often displacing salt marshes. Dr. Anna Armitage (Professor, Marine Biology, TAMUG) and her colleagues, Dr. Steve Pennings (University of Houston) and Dr. John Kominoski (Florida International University) have been studying the ecological consequences of this mangrove expansion in our region. Hurricane Harvey provided a unique opportunity to answer a critical question: do mangroves provide fundamentally different – or better – shoreline protection than the grasses and shrubs that they replace? Read more

Mangrove Restoration in Galveston Bay: Ecological Benefits and Effective Restoration Techniques

The objective of this project is to determine if, where, and how mangrove restoration should be implemented in Galveston Bay. In order to yield successful results, coastal wetland restoration strategies need to be adapted to the rapidly-changing coastal landscape. Our goal was to inform best-practices for mangrove (Avicennia germinans) restoration, and to provide recommendations as to if and when coastal wetland restoration efforts should include mangrove plantings. Read more

Ecosystem restoration: ecological restoration of emergent coastal marshes and aquatic habitats

As our understanding of complex biotic and abiotic links between emergent marshes and adjacent aquatic habitats increases, restoration approaches must also increase in complexity. The development of plant canopy features is often considered to be a sign of successful coastal marsh restoration, but a robust plant canopy may not correspond with the recovery of other ecosystem attributes such as nutrient retention or energy flow through food webs... Read more

Changing coastal ecosystems: causes and consequences of mangrove expansion into northern Gulf of Mexico salt marshes

On the Texas coast, black mangroves (Avicennia germinans) regularly expand from persistent populations into salt marshes during periods with warm winters, and occasionally contract in distribution during periods with severe freezes. Over the coming decades, mangrove distributions are expected to continue expanding due to rising global temperatures and milder winters. As a result, large areas of the Texas coast that historically have been dominated by salt marshes will become dominated by mangroves. ... Read more

Blue carbon in coastal wetlands: the effects of restoration and woody encroachment

Carbon can be absorbed from the atmosphere and stored by microbial and plant communities in a process called sequestration. A portion of this carbon is respired by the plants and released back into the atmosphere, but the remainder is converted into biomass that may become sequestered in the soil for decades. Carbon that is sequestered in marine habitats such as marshes, mangroves, and seagrasses, is known as “blue carbon.” Read more

Dr. Anna Armitage

Dr. Anna Armitage
Principal Investigator
Department of Marine Biology
1001 Texas Clipper Rd
Bld# 3029, Office 259
Galveston, TX, 77554 USA

Office: (409) 740-4842
Lab: (409) 741-4070
Fax: (409) 740-5001

Marine Biology Dept

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