The cartoon shows the salt marsh seed as an adventurer and shows the adventure routes and major issues associated with this PhD research. Images by Zhiyuan Zhoa, NIOZ.

During his PhD, Zhiyuan Zhao investigated what factors allow seedlings to ground and persist in saltmarshes. Findings demonstrate that the seed-based growth in salt marshes is much more intricate than previously expected. Furthermore, we provide insight into the critical factors that have overriding effects on each recruitment process and highlight the variability of their impacts across species and among sites.

The results provide guidelines and valuable first-hand data for future model efforts to simulate salt marsh evolution and identify demographic stages that drive recruitment failures. More importantly, this mechanistic process study can be translated into practical guidelines for effective conservation and restoration of salt marshes through seed-based or seedling-based approaches, thereby contributing to incorporating salt marshes in nature-based applications such as coastal defense, climate stability, or carbon sequestration.

Diagram with the main findings of this PhD research. Image by Zhiyuan Zhao, NIOZ.