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Samantha Chapman, PhD - Villanova University. Villanova , PA, US

Samantha Chapman, PhD Samantha Chapman, PhD

Associate Professor of Biology | College of Liberal Arts and Sciences | Villanova University


Samantha Chapman, PhD is an Associate Professor with expertise in global change in coastal ecosystems and invasive plant species.





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Areas of Expertise (4)

Biodiversity Loss Climate change effects on coastal wetlands Invasive Species Carbon Storage and Sequestration


Climate change, encroaching development, and accelerating environmental degradation of natural habitats pose a serious threat to an increasing number of plant and animal species. Dr. Chapman researches and can discuss leading issues on coastal climate change and possible solutions to biodiversity loss.

Education (3)

Northern Arizona University: PhD

Northern Arizona University: MS

The Pennsylvania State University: BS

Select Accomplishments (4)

Anne Quinn Welsh Honors Faculty Fellow, Villanova University (professional)


Smithsonian Institution Postdoctoral Fellowship (professional)


Selected Participant, National Science Foundation/UMBC ADVANCE Faculty Horizons workshop for aspiring STEM faculty (professional)


Smithsonian Marine Station Link Fellowship (professional)


Affiliations (5)

  • Member of NASA Climate Adaptation Science Investigators Group
  • Board of Directors, Soil Ecology Society
  • Christmas Tree Farms and Soil Carbon Storage: A North American Carbon Program (NACP) Affiliated Project
  • Smithsonian Marine Science Network
  • Editorial Board Member, Ecology; Journal of Ecology

Select Media Appearances (12)

Protecting the world's wetlands: 5 essential reads

The Conversation  online


Mangroves are actually benefiting from climate change in some regions, such as Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. Villanova University biologist Samantha Chapman has found that mangroves are becoming more abundant in these areas, moving into zones formerly dominated by salt marshes, which typically are found in cooler zones.

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Rapid effects of climate change on plants and their ecosystems

Phys.Org  online


An international team of researchers led by two Villanova University biologists has found that climate change is dramatically altering terrestrial plant communities and their ecosystems at such a rapid pace that having a stable baseline from which to conduct experiments is becoming increasingly difficult.

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Global Warning

WHYY Philadelphia Public Radio  radio


Piece begins at 39:20.
We’re talking about climate change. The new UN report states that humans have to take serious action to reduce warming within the next ten years or face some dire consequences … here’s a candidate that could help form a barrier against rising seas: mangroves. “So they’re those trees that look kind of like jungle gyms.” That’s Villanova biologist Samantha Chapman, she studies wetland ecosystems, including mangroves.

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Planting beachfront foliage in SC may be best defense against sea rise, study finds Maritime forests like

The Post and Courier (Charleston, SC)  online


Maritime forests like the one that residents want to trim back on Sullivan’s Island might be the best defense they have against rising seas and storm surge. Trees such as the wax myrtles and the underbrush the town is considering cutting have long been considered valuable erosion fighters. Now a study suggests planting more of them might be a better bet for coastal residents to protect their properties than other barriers because the trees bulk up the soil where they are planted. The study, done in a mangrove forest in Florida, has ramifications all along the coast, said Professor Samantha Chapman, of Villanova University, one of the study authors.

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Villanova researchers find Mangroves could fight sea-level rise

KYW News Radio (Philadelphia)  radio


Villanova University researchers say they made some encouraging finds in a study focused on ways to combat rising sea levels resulting from a warming of the climate.
Samantha Chapman is part of the team of biologists and ecologists engaged in the study of marsh conditions at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
She says the study found that Mangrove trees grew in size and their root structures pushed up the soil better than marsh grasses providing a measure of protection.

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Mangrove expansion and climatic warming may help ecosystems keep pace with sea level rise

Science News  online


In a landmark study titled "Warming accelerates mangrove expansion and surface elevation gain in a subtropical wetland," a team of Villanova University biologists has documented that coastal wetlands in the southeastern United States are responding positively to rising temperatures both in their growth and in their ability to build soil to keep pace with sea level rise.

Published August 29 in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Ecology, the study's results are a ray of sunshine in the climate change forecast. Members of the research team included Glenn A. Coldren, J. Adam Langley, and Samantha Chapman, from Villanova University's Department of Biology, Villanova, PA and Ilka C. Feller of The Animal-Plant Interaction Lab, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, in Edgewater.

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Mangroves protect coastlines, store carbon – and are expanding with climate change

The Conversation  online


Authored by Samantha Chapman, Associate Professor of Biology, Villanova University.
With the help of technology, humans can traverse virtually every part of our planet’s surface. But animals and plants are less mobile. Most species can only live in zones where temperature and rain fall within specific ranges.

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New research shows protective value of mangroves for coastlines

phys.org  online


The threat to coastal regions posed by climate change, overdevelopment and other human caused stressors is well-established. Among the most prized and valuable land throughout the world, shorelines everywhere are imperiled by sea level rise, beach erosion and flooding. But a recently published NASA-funded research study in which Villanova University Biology Professor Samantha Chapman played a key role has discovered a new, natural phenomenon that could offer an economic and ecological solution to coastal wetland protection—the spread of mangrove trees.

Mangroves are tropical trees that grow in coastal intertidal zones, notable for their dense tangles of prop roots which serve as highly effective shields for coastlines by reducing the force of breaking waves, decreasing erosion and increasing sediment deposition. These trees are rapidly moving northward in Florida due to the lack of hard freezes. Once there, they change habitats previously dominated by salt marshes into mangrove swamps.
The new study, titled, "Impacts of mangrove encroachment and mosquito impoundment on coastal protection services," compares the coastal protection value of salt marshes with mangroves along Florida's East central coast and the overlying area of The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (MINWR) in which NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is located.

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Soil Microbes May Be Orchestrating Tree Migrations

Scientific American  online


Scientific understanding of how specific groups of bacteria interact with plant species is still in its infancy, noted Samantha Chapman, an associate professor in the Department of Biology at Villanova University.

She said the study highlighted how soil bacteria can mediate range shifts upslope for species, a factor that is especially important in a warming climate.
“The novelty of their findings are they are looking into areas where plants aren't yet, but might get to,” Chapman said.

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Could mangrove northern expansion temper global warming?

Florida Today  online


Fewer hard freezes due to global warming means more mangroves will flourish in Florida and worldwide to trap carbon and temper further warming, new NASA-funded research concludes.

The mangrove’s poleward march doubles how much carbon coastal wetlands can store per acre, “which may exert a considerable negative feedback on warming,” according to the study, led by researchers at Villanova University.

“I think it is an example of how, if we kind of leave things alone and let them adapt to climate change — let nature alone enough to adapt to change — that can happen,” said Samantha Chapman, an ecologist at Villanova University and co-author of the study. “That doesn’t mean of course that we shoud stop trying to reduce emissions.”

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Ocean warming called 'greatest hidden challenge of our generation'

PRI's "The World"  radio


Melting glaciers and bleached corals: We hear about them a lot when it comes to the effects of global warming on our oceans.

But other impacts aren’t so visible — like whole species of fish, seabirds and turtles moving to live in cooler waters closer to the poles.

These changes are highlighted in a new report released this week by the International Union for Conservation of Nature that calls ocean warming “the greatest hidden challenge of our generation.” The report was authored by 80 contributing scientists from a dozen countries, and was released during an international conservation summit in Honolulu.

Co-author Samantha Chapman, an ecologist at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, explains that water molecules can absorb a lot of heat, and the oceans are huge.

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As climate warms, mangroves serve as defenders against flooding

WHYY's "Newsworks" Philadelphia NPR Affiliate)  radio


What can we do to adapt to global warming as species move, shift their habitats or disappear altogether? This big question came up in our series "So, what do you do," where we pair lay people with scientists for down to earth conversations about research - and life!

For this edition, graphic designer and artist Anthony Smyrski of Philadelphia asked Villanova biologist Samantha Chapman: "So, what do you do?"

"I'm a professor and an ecosystem ecologist at Vilanova University, and I try to understand how coastal lands provide services for us," answered Chapman. "For example, I'm interested in how vegetation such as salt marshes and mangroves can help protect us against big storms and waves as they line our coasts."

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Research Grants (5)

The influence of mangrove invasion and rising temperatures on belowground processes in coastal ecosystems

National Science Foundation 

2017-2020, Ecosystem Science
Principal Investigator with Co-PIs M. Hester, J. Morris, A. Langley and C. Feller.

Mangroves marching northward: the impacts of rising seas and temperatures on ecosystems at Kennedy Space Center


2012-205, with extension to 2016.
Principal Investigator with I.C. Feller, J.A. Langley and W. Walker.

Interactions of invasive insects, wildfire and climate change: Mechanisms, processes and adaptations on forest productivity, composition and decline

USDA Forest Service RSJVA 

Principal Investigator with J. Hom.

Manipulating plant and microbial resource environment to optimize oil degradation in coastal marshes


Co-Principal Investigator with with J.A. Langley.

Christmas Trees and Soil Carbon Storage: Maximizing Ecosystem Management and Sustainability in A Future Carbon Economy


2008-2010, extension to 2012.
Principal Investigator with with J.A. Langley.

Select Academic Articles (5)

Impacts of mangrove encroachment and mosquito impoundment management on coastal protection services Hydrobiologia

Doughty C.D.* K. C. Cavanaugh, C.R. Hall, I.C. Feller, S.K. Chapman

In press.

Chronic warming stimulates growth of marsh grasses more than mangroves in a coastal wetland ecotone Ecology

GA Coldren, CR Barreto, DD Wykoff, EM Morrissey, J Adam Langley, IC Feller, SK Chapman


Increasing temperatures and a reduction in the frequency and severity of freezing events have been linked to species distribution shifts. Across the globe, mangrove ranges are expanding toward higher latitudes, likely due to diminishing frequency of freezing events associated with climate change. Continued warming will alter coastal wetland plant dynamics both above-and belowground, potentially altering plant capacity to keep up with sea level rise.

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Impacts and effects of ocean warming on tidal marsh and tidal freshwater forest ecosystems Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. pp. 105-120.

J Patrick Megonigal, Samantha Chapman, Steve Crooks, Paul Dijkstra, Matt Kirwan, Adam Langley


Tidal wetland responses to warming involve complex feedbacks between plants, microbes and physical processes, the balance of which will ultimately determine if these ecosystems can keep pace with accelerated sea-level rise. Plant primary production is likely to increase with warming based on evidence from latitudinal gradients of tidal marsh biomass and experimental manipulations.

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Impacts of soil nitrogen and carbon additions on forest understory communities with a long nitrogen deposition history Ecosystems

Samantha K Chapman, Kathryn A Devine, Courtney Curran, Rachel O Jones, Frank S Gilliam


Rates of nitrogen (N) deposition have been historically high throughout much of the northeastern United States; thus, understanding the legacy of these high N loads is important for maintaining forest productivity and resilience. Though many studies have documented plant invasions due to N deposition and associated impacts on ecosystems, less is known about whether invasive plants will continue to increase in dominance with further shifting nutrient regimes. Using soil N and carbon additions, we examined the impact of both increasing and decreasing soil N on native and invasive understory plant dynamics over 4 years in a northeastern deciduous forest with a long history of N deposition. Despite applying large quantities of N, we found no difference in soil nitrate (NO3) or ammonium (NH4 +) pools in N addition plots over the course of the study.

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Mangrove range expansion rapidly increases coastal wetland carbon storage Estuaries and Coasts

Cheryl L Doughty, J Adam Langley, Wayne S Walker, Ilka C Feller, Ronald Schaub, Samantha K Chapman


The climate change-induced expansion of mangroves into salt marshes could significantly alter the carbon (C) storage capacity of coastal wetlands, which have the highest average C storage per land area among unmanaged terrestrial ecosystems. Mangrove range expansion is occurring globally, but little is known about how these rapid climate-driven shifts may alter ecosystem C storage. Here, we quantify current C stocks in ecotonal wetlands across gradients of marsh- to mangrove-dominance, and use unique chronological maps of vegetation cover to estimate C stock changes from 2003 to 2010 in a 567-km wildlife refuge in the mangrove-salt marsh ecotone. We report that over the 7-yr. period, total wetland C stocks increased 22 % due to mangrove encroachment into salt marshes. Newly established mangrove stands stored twice as much C on a per area basis as salt marsh primarily due to differences in aboveground biomass, and mangrove cover increased by 69 % during this short time interval. Wetland C storage within the wildlife refuge increased at a rate of 2.7 Mg C ha yr., more than doubling the naturally high coastal wetland C sequestration rates. Mangrove expansion could account for a globally significant increase of terrestrial C storage, which may exert a considerable negative feedback on warming.

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