Can mud (silt and clay) concentration be used to predict soil organic carbon content within seagrass ecosystems?

Serrano, Oscar, Lavery, Paul S., Duarte, Carlos M., Kendrick, Gary A., Calafat, Antoni, York, Paul H., Steven, Andy, and Macreadie, Peter I. (2016) Can mud (silt and clay) concentration be used to predict soil organic carbon content within seagrass ecosystems? Biogeosciences, 13. pp. 4915-4926.

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The emerging field of blue carbon science is seeking cost-effective ways to estimate the organic carbon content of soils that are bound by coastal vegetated ecosystems. Organic carbon (C(org)) content in terrestrial soils and marine sediments has been correlated with mud content (i.e., silt and clay, particle sizes < 63 µm), however, empirical tests of this theory are lacking for coastal vegetated ecosystems. Here, we compiled data (n =  1345) on the relationship between C(org) and mud contents in seagrass ecosystems (79 cores) and adjacent bare sediments (21 cores) to address whether mud can be used to predict soil C(org) content. We also combined these data with the δ¹³C signatures of the soil C(org) to understand the sources of C(org) stores. The results showed that mud is positively correlated with soil C(org) content only when the contribution of seagrass-derived C(org) to the sedimentary C(org) pool is relatively low, such as in small and fast-growing meadows of the genera Zostera, Halodule and Halophila, and in bare sediments adjacent to seagrass ecosystems. In large and long-living seagrass meadows of the genera Posidonia and Amphibolis there was a lack of, or poor relationship between mud and soil C(org) content, related to a higher contribution of seagrass-derived C(org) to the sedimentary C(org) pool in these meadows. The relatively high soil C(org) contents with relatively low mud contents (e.g., mud-C(org) saturation) in bare sediments and Zostera, Halodule and Halophila meadows was related to significant allochthonous inputs of terrestrial organic matter, while higher contribution of seagrass detritus in Amphibolis and Posidonia meadows disrupted the correlation expected between soil C(org) and mud contents. This study shows that mud is not a universal proxy for blue carbon content in seagrass ecosystems, and therefore should not be applied generally across all seagrass habitats. Mud content can only be used as a proxy to estimate soil C(org) content for scaling up purposes when opportunistic and/or low biomass seagrass species (i.e., Zostera, Halodule and Halophila) are present (explaining 34 to 91 % of variability), and in bare sediments (explaining 78 % of the variability). The results obtained could enable robust scaling up exercises at a low cost as part of blue carbon stock assessments.

Item ID: 45271
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1726-4189
Keywords: seagrass; blue carbon; ecosystem services
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© Author(s) 2016. CC Attribution 3.0 License.

Funders: Edith Cowan University (ECU), Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Flagship Marine & Coastal Carbon Biogeochemical Cluster, Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC DECRA DE130101084
Research Data:
Date Deposited: 08 Sep 2016 23:33
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4105 Pollution and contamination > 410501 Environmental biogeochemistry @ 20%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4101 Climate change impacts and adaptation > 410101 Carbon sequestration science @ 50%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 30%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960503 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Coastal and Estuarine Environments @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9614 Soils > 961401 Coastal and Estuarine Soils @ 50%
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