Author Identifier

Oscar Serrano Orcid: Pere Masque´ Orcid: Paul Lavery Orcid: Ute Mueller Orcid: Mohammad Rozaimi Orcid: Miguel-Angel Mateo Orcid:

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Nature Climate Change


Nature Publishing Group


School of Science / Centre for Marine Ecosystems Research



Grant Number

ARC Number : DE170101524


This is an author's accepted manuscript of:

Arias-Ortiz, A., Serrano, O., Masqué, P., Lavery, P. S., Mueller, U., Kendrick, G. A., ... & Mateo, M. A. (2018). A marine heatwave drives massive losses from the world’s largest seagrass carbon stocks. Nature Climate Change, 8(4), 338-344. doi:10.1038/s41558-018-0096-y

Published article Available here.


Seagrass ecosystems contain globally significant organic carbon (C) stocks. However, climate change and increasing frequency of extreme events threaten their preservation. Shark Bay, Western Australia, has the largest C stock reported for a seagrass ecosystem, containing up to 1.3% of the total C stored within the top metre of seagrass sediments worldwide. On the basis of field studies and satellite imagery, we estimate that 36% of Shark Bay’s seagrass meadows were damaged following a marine heatwave in 2010/2011. Assuming that 10 to 50% of the seagrass sediment C stock was exposed to oxic conditions after disturbance, between 2 and 9 Tg CO2 could have been released to the atmosphere during the following three years, increasing emissions from land-use change in Australia by 4–21% per annum. With heatwaves predicted to increase with further climate warming, conservation of seagrass ecosystems is essential to avoid adverse feedbacks on the climate system.