Sedimentary organic carbon and nitrogen sequestration across a vertical gradient on a temperate wetland seascape including salt marshes, seagrass meadows and rhizophytic macroalgae beds
School of Science / Centre for Marine Ecosystems Research
Australian Research Council LIEF Project
International Campus of Excellence of the Sea (CEIMAR) though the program Young Researcher CEIMAR Research Projects Call 2018 (project CADYCCO)
Portuguese FCT—Foundation for Science and Technology (grant and contract numbers: UIDB/04326/2020, 2020.03825.CEECIND, 2020.06996.BD)
ARC Number : LE170100219
Coastal wetlands are key in regulating coastal carbon and nitrogen dynamics and contribute significantly to climate change mitigation and anthropogenic nutrient reduction. We investigated organic carbon (OC) and total nitrogen (TN) stocks and burial rates at four adjacent vegetated coastal habitats across the seascape elevation gradient of Cádiz Bay (South Spain), including one species of salt marsh, two of seagrasses, and a macroalgae. OC and TN stocks in the upper 1 m sediment layer were higher at the subtidal seagrass Cymodocea nodosa (72.3 Mg OC ha − 1, 8.6 Mg TN ha − 1) followed by the upper intertidal salt marsh Sporobolus maritimus (66.5 Mg OC ha − 1, 5.9 Mg TN ha − 1), the subtidal rhizophytic macroalgae Caulerpa prolifera (62.2 Mg OC ha − 1, 7.2 Mg TN ha − 1), and the lower intertidal seagrass Zostera noltei (52.8 Mg OC ha − 1, 5.2 Mg TN ha − 1). The sedimentation rates increased from lower to higher elevation, from the intertidal salt marsh (0.24 g cm − 2 y − 1) to the subtidal macroalgae (0.12 g cm − 2 y − 1). The organic carbon burial rate was highest at the intertidal salt marsh (91 ± 31 g OC m − 2 y − 1), followed by the intertidal seagrass, (44 ± 15 g OC m − 2 y − 1), the subtidal seagrass (39 ± 6 g OC m − 2 y − 1), and the subtidal macroalgae (28 ± 4 g OC m − 2 y − 1). Total nitrogen burial rates were similar among the three lower vegetation types, ranging from 5 ± 2 to 3 ± 1 g TN m − 2 y − 1, and peaked at S. maritimus salt marsh with 7 ± 1 g TN m − 2 y − 1. The contribution of allochthonous sources to the sedimentary organic matter also decreased with elevation, from 72 % in C. prolifera to 33 % at S. maritimus. Our results highlight the need of using habitat-specific OC and TN stocks and burial rates to improve our ability to predict OC and TN sequestration capacity of vegetated coastal habitats at the seascape level. We also demonstrated that the stocks and burial rates in C. prolifera habitats were within the range of well-accepted blue carbon ecosystems such as seagrass meadows and salt marshes.