• GCREW Chambers
  • Marsh Vegetation
  • GCReW chambers at sunrise
  • Annual census
  • GENX chambers at sunrise
  • Marsh vegetation

Principal Investigator

The Biogeochemistry Lab studies element cycles to understand how ecosystems respond to global-scale changes such as sea level rise, warming, elevated carbon dioxide, nitrogen pollution, and invasive species.

Our holistic approach integrates the responses of both plants and microbes, the two dominant life forms regulating the capture and release of energy in organic compounds.

We operate the Smithsonian's Global Change Research Wetland, and NSF-LTREB facility dedicated to unraveling the complex ecological processes that confer stability on coastal marshes as they respond to global environmental change. Other research themes include methane emissions from wetlands and upland forests, and carbon sequestration in blue carbon ecosystems.

Banner: Technology in Ecology. Logo with plant in green circle, surrounded by circuit-board lines

The Technology in Ecology Lab collaborates extensively within SERC and globally to design and support technological innovation, serving ecological research, experimental design, and data infrastructure. 

CCRCN icon

CCRCN name





The Coastal Carbon Research Coordination Network is a consortium of biogeochemists, ecologists, pedologists, and coastal land managers with the goal of accelerating the pace of discovery in coastal wetland carbon science by providing our community with access to data, analysis tools, and synthesis opportunities. 

Personal pages:

James R. Holmquist is a wetland ecologist focused on the carbon cycle and resiliency issues. He researches the drivers and interactions affecting carbon cycling in wetlands to determine how resilient they are to climate change and to account for ecosystem service changes associated with their loss and restoration.

Research investigates wetland plant response to rising carbon dioxide levels

A recent study published in Nature Climate Change, based on experiments at the Global Change Research Wetland, suggests that morphological responses to carbon dioxide and nitrogen supply by Schoenoplectus americanus influence the capacity of marshes to gain elevation at rates that keep pace with rising sea levels. Sam Illingworth composed a wonderful poem inspired by the article on The Poetry of Science.

SERC and international collaborators publish article on wetland carbon storage

The Biogeochemistry lab's Patrick Megonigal and James Holmquist were co-authors on a recent global synthesis of carbon storage in coastal wetlands, published in Nature Climate Change. They demonstrate that wetlands experiencing rapid sea level rise store more carbon than wetlands under stable sea level conditions, suggesting a mitigation effect coastal wetlands have on global environmental change. Read a BBC news article on this paper here.

Virginia Public Radio
Climate Change Experiment Fast-Forwards the Chesapeake Bay to the Year 2100 [News article and audio]

The Poetry of Science
Rising Marshes by Sam Illingworth [Poem]

Yale e360
Trees a Surprisingly Large Source of Methane [Article]

SERC Shorelines Blog
Rethinking Carbon [Article]

NPR Boston
"Smithsonian: New England marshes may perform better under pressure" [Sound below]

"Wetland mud is 'secret weapon' against climate change" [Article]

Smithsonian Magazine
"For World's Wetlands, It May Be Sink or Swim. Here's Why It Matters" [Article]

Bay Weekly
"Life in the Jungle" [Article]

"Humans Doing More Harm Than Good in Protecting Wetlands from Rising Water" [Radio]

Maryland Sea Grant
"Marshes in a Changing World" [Part I] [Part II]

WYPR 88.1/NPR-Baltimore
"The Jekyll and Hyde of the Marsh" [Radio]

Environmental engineer Gary Peresta has an important public service announcement.

Nitrogen status regulates morphological adaptation of marsh plants to elevated CO2. Nature Climate Change.
[Full article]

Wetland carbon storage controlled by millennial-scale variation in relative sea-level rise. Nature. 
[Full article]

Tidal wetland stability in the face of human impacts and sea-level rise. Nature. 
[Full article]

Direct and indirect effects of elevated atmospheric CO2 on net ecosystem production in a Chesapeake Bay tidal wetland. Global Change Biology. 

Tidal marsh plant responses to elevated CO2, nitrogen fertilization, and sea level rise. Global Change Biology. 

Jack-And-Master Trait Responses to Elevated CO2 and N: A Comparison of Native and Introduced Phragmites australis. PLOS ONE. 

Stay in Touch

Subscribe to the Biogeochemistry Lab Literature Updates

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.