Carbon stocks, sequestration, and emissions of wetlands in south eastern Australia
Blackwell Publishing Ltd
School of Science
Nontidal wetlands are estimated to contribute significantly to the soil carbon pool across the globe. However, our understanding of the occurrence and variability of carbon storage between wetland types and across regions represents a major impediment to the ability of nations to include wetlands in greenhouse gas inventories and carbon offset initiatives. We performed a large‐scale survey of nontidal wetland soil carbon stocks and accretion rates from the state of Victoria in south‐eastern Australia—a region spanning 237,000 km2 and containing >35,000 temperate, alpine, and semi‐arid wetlands. From an analysis of >1,600 samples across 103 wetlands, we found that alpine wetlands had the highest carbon stocks (290 ± 180 Mg Corg ha−1), while permanent open freshwater wetlands and saline wetlands had the lowest carbon stocks (110 ± 120 and 60 ± 50 Mg Corg ha−1, respectively). Permanent open freshwater sites sequestered on average three times more carbon per year over the last century than shallow freshwater marshes (2.50 ± 0.44 and 0.79 ± 0.45 Mg Corg ha−1 year−1, respectively). Using this data, we estimate that wetlands in Victoria have a soil carbon stock in the upper 1 m of 68 million tons of Corg, with an annual soil carbon sequestration rate of 3 million tons of CO2 eq. year−1—equivalent to the annual emissions of about 3% of the state's population. Since European settlement (~1834), drainage and loss of 260,530 ha of wetlands may have released between 20 and 75 million tons CO2 equivalents (based on 27%–90% of soil carbon converted to CO2). Overall, we show that despite substantial spatial variability within wetland types, some wetland types differ in their carbon stocks and sequestration rates. The duration of water inundation, plant community composition, and allochthonous carbon inputs likely play an important role in influencing variation in carbon storage.