Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Global Biogeochemical Cycles








Centre for Marine Ecosystems Research / School of Science


foundation for Baltic and East European studies (Östersjöstiftelsen) / FORMAS / Helge Ax:son Johnson foundation / Bolin Centre for climate research, and Albert och Maria Bergström foundation / I + D + i projects


Dahl, M., Gullström, M., Bernabeu, I., Serrano, O., Leiva-Dueñas, C., Linderholm, H. W., . . Mateo, M. A. (2024). A 2,000-year record of eelgrass (zostera marina L.) colonization shows substantial gains in blue carbon storage and nutrient retention. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 38(3), article e2023GB008039.


Assessing historical environmental conditions linked to habitat colonization is important for understanding long-term resilience and improving conservation and restoration efforts. Such information is lacking for the seagrass Zostera marina, an important foundation species across cold-temperate coastal areas of the Northern Hemisphere. Here, we reconstructed environmental conditions during the last 14,000 years from sediment cores in two eelgrass (Z. marina) meadows along the Swedish west coast, with the main aims to identify the time frame of seagrass colonization and describe subsequent biogeochemical changes following establishment. Based on vegetation proxies (lipid biomarkers), eelgrass colonization occurred about 2,000 years ago after geomorphological changes that resulted in a shallow, sheltered environment favoring seagrass growth. Seagrass establishment led to up to 20- and 24-fold increases in sedimentary carbon and nitrogen accumulation rates, respectively. This demonstrates the capacity of seagrasses as efficient ecosystem engineers and their role in global change mitigation and adaptation through CO2 removal, and nutrient and sediment retention. By combining regional climate projections and landscape models, we assessed potential climate change effects on seagrass growth, productivity and distribution until 2100. These predictions showed that seagrass meadows are mostly at risk from increased sedimentation and hydrodynamic changes, while the impact from sea level rise alone might be of less importance in the studied area. This study showcases the positive feedback between seagrass colonization and environmental conditions, which holds promise for successful conservation and restoration efforts aimed at supporting climate change mitigation and adaptation, and the provision of several other crucial ecosystem services.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.