Ghost forests created by the submergence of low-lying land are one of the most striking indicators of climate change along the Atlantic coast of North America. Although dead trees at the margin of estuaries were described as early as 1910, recent research has led to new recognition that the submergence of terrestrial land is geographically widespread, ecologically and economically important, and globally relevant to the survival of coastal wetlands in the face of rapid sea level rise. This emerging understanding has in turn generated widespread interest in the physical and ecological mechanisms influencing the extent and pace of upland to wetland conversion. Choices between defending the coast from sea level rise and facilitating ecosystem transgression will play a fundamental role in determining the fate and function of low-lying coastal land.
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This work was supported by the US National Science Foundation (Coastal SEES #1426981; LTER #1237733; CAREER #1654374), and the USDA Agricultural and Food Research Initiative Competitive Program (#2018-68002-27915). SouthWings provided a flight that helped motivate the work. This is contribution no. 3827 of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.