Tidal and nontidal marsh restoration: A trade-off between carbon sequestration, methane emissions, and soil accretion
Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
AGU Publications / Wiley
School of Science
Funding information : https://doi.org/10.1029/2021JG006573 Australian Research Council
ARC Number : LE170100219
Support for coastal wetland restoration projects that consider carbon (C) storage as a climate mitigation benefit is growing as coastal wetlands are sites of substantial C sequestration. However, the climate footprint of wetland restoration remains controversial as wetlands can also be large sources of methane (CH4). We quantify the vertical fluxes of C in restored fresh and oligohaline nontidal wetlands with managed hydrology and a tidal euhaline marsh in California's San Francisco Bay-Delta. We combine the use of eddy covariance atmospheric flux measurements with 210Pb-derived soil C accumulation rates to quantify the C sequestration efficiency of restored wetlands and their associated climate mitigation service. Nontidal managed wetlands were the most efficient in burying C on-site, with soil C accumulation rates as high as their net atmospheric C uptake (−280 ± 90 and −350 ± 150 g C m−2 yr−1). In contrast, the restored tidal wetland exhibited lower C burial rates over decadal timescales (70 ± 19 g C m−2 yr−1) that accounted for ∼13%–23% of its annual C uptake, suggesting that the remaining fraction is exported via lateral hydrologic flux. From an ecosystem radiative balance perspective, the restored tidal wetland showed a > 10 times higher CO2-sequestration to CH4-emission ratio than the nontidal managed wetlands. Thus overall, tidal wetland restoration resulted in a negative radiative forcing (cooling) through increased soil C accumulation, while nontidal wetland restoration led to an early positive forcing (warming) through increased CH4 emissions potentially lasting between 2.1 ± 2.0 to 8 ± 4 decades.