Climate change and carbon storage
Ecosystems of the world face face a variety of stressors associated with global change. I investigate the impacts of these stressors on biogeochemical cycling and flux of elements through aquatic ecosystems. For example, shifting forest composition may alter rates of aquatic insect development and organic matter processing in forest ponds (Mehring and Maret 2011). The quantity and quality of leaf litter entering aquatic ecosystems -- two properties modified by forest composition -- may also affect benthic oxygen demand and nutrient retention in headwater streams (Mehring et al 2014, 2015). All of these processes are dependent to a large extent on climate and weather patterns. While trees may be responsible for the vast majority of carbon entering forested aquatic ecosystems, droughts may dramatically alter the rate at which those carbon subsidies are transported and mineralized in large river networks (Mehring et al 2013).
I currently focus more attention on the factors that modify stream and wetland carbon storage. I recently completed the FLAMMINGGOS Project, which addressed the affects of predatory waterbirds on wetland greenhouse gas flux. Here in Jefferson County, Kentucky, I am examining the impacts of fertilizer use on wetland carbon source-sink status, the affects of fire on carbon storage in forests, and the affects of ecosystem restoration on carbon storage in streams and their riparian zones.