Can mud (silt and clay) concentration be used to predict soil organic carbon content within seagrass ecosystems?
Lavery, P. S.
Duarte, Carlos M.
Kendrick, Gary A.
Macreadie, Peter I.
KAUST DepartmentRed Sea Research Center (RSRC)
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AbstractThe 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 mu m), 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 delta C-13 signatures of the soil C-org to understand the sources of Corg 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.
CitationSerrano O, Lavery PS, Duarte CM, Kendrick GA, Calafat A, et al. (2016) Can mud (silt and clay) concentration be used to predict soil organic carbon content within seagrass ecosystems? Biogeosciences 13: 4915–4926. Available: http://dx.doi.org/10.5194/bg-13-4915-2016.
SponsorsThis work was supported by the ECU Faculty Research Grant Scheme, the ECU Early Career Research Grant Scheme, and the CSIRO Flagship Marine & Coastal Carbon Biogeochemical Cluster (Coastal Carbon Cluster) with funding from the CSIRO Flagship Collaboration Fund. Peter Macreadie was supported by an ARC DECRA DE130101084. The authors are grateful to M. Rozaimi, A. Gera, P. Bouvais, A. Ricart, C. Bryant, G. Skilbeck, M. Rozaimi, A. Esteban, M. A. Mateo, P. Donaldson, C. Sharples and R. Mount for their help in field and/or laboratory tasks.