Impact of seagrass loss and subsequent revegetation on carbon sequestration and stocks
Blackwell Publishing Ltd
School of Science / Centre for Marine Ecosystems Research
Seagrass meadows are sites of high rates of carbon sequestration and they potentially support 'blue carbon' strategies to mitigate anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Current uncertainties on the fate of carbon stocks following the loss or revegetation of seagrass meadows prevent the deployment of 'blue carbon' strategies. Here, we reconstruct the trajectories of carbon stocks associated with one of the longest monitored seagrass restoration projects globally. We demonstrate that sediment carbon stocks erode following seagrass loss and that revegetation projects effectively restore seagrass carbon sequestration capacity. We combine carbon chronosequences with 210Pb dating of seagrass sediments in a meadow that experienced losses until the end of 1980s and subsequent serial revegetation efforts. Inventories of excess 210Pb in seagrass sediments revealed that its accumulation, and thus sediments, coincided with the presence of seagrass vegetation. They also showed that the upper sediments eroded in areas that remained devoid of vegetation after seagrass loss. Seagrass revegetation enhanced autochthonous and allochthonous carbon deposition and burial. Carbon burial rates increased with the age of the restored sites, and 18 years after planting, they were similar to that in continuously vegetated meadows (26.4 ± 0.8 gCorg m-2 year-1). Synthesis. The results presented here demonstrate that loss of seagrass triggers the erosion of historic carbon deposits and that revegetation effectively restores seagrass carbon sequestration capacity. Thus, conservation and restoration of seagrass meadows are effective strategies for climate change mitigation.