The Effects of Sea Level Rise on Ecosystem Productivity, Microbial Populations, and Soil pH along the California Coast

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With rising sea levels due to global climate change on the horizon, I constructed multiple soil systems modeling various levels of potential soil salinity resulting from flooding along the coast of California. Since a fair amount of the coast is made up of exclusive residential property, agricultural land, and nature preserves, the potential for financial and biological damages due to increased sea levels along these coastal areas is high. I monitored soil durability over two, four, and six-week mock coastal flood periods by collecting and analyzing soil salinity, conductivity and pH as well as microbial populations. I imagined that as salinity increased, the pH level would become more alkaline while the number of microbes in the soil would stay relatively constant; however, microbial diversity would decrease to favor the salt-resistant species. As well, I predicted that varying levels in salinity would highly correlate with pH and in turn affect biological populations and their productivity behaviors. I found my results match my hypotheses leading me to make a plea for coastal risk assessment studies in order to keep impacts of sea-level rise from affecting soil productivity and therefore farmland crop yield as well as altering well-established coastal ecosystems.


Jim Sadd




Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation Science Research Fellowship

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