Nature Publishing Group
School of Science / Centre for Marine Ecosystems Research
The loss of natural carbon sinks, such as seagrass meadows, contributes to grenhouse gas emissions and, thus, global warming. Whereas seagrass meadows are declining in temperate and tropical regions, they are expected to expand into the Arctic with future warming. Using paleoreconstruction of carbon burial and sources of organic carbon to shallow coastal sediments of three Greenland seagrass (Zostera marina) meadows of contrasting density and age, we test the hypothesis that Arctic seagrass meadows are expanding along with the associated sediment carbon sinks. We show that sediments accreted before 1900 were highly 13C depleted, indicative of low inputs of seagrass carbon, whereas from 1940’s to present carbon burial rates increased greatly and sediment carbon stocks were largely enriched with seagrass material. Currently, the increase of seagrass carbon inputs to sediments of lush and dense meadows (Kapisillit and Ameralik) was 2.6 fold larger than that of sparse meadows with low biomass (Kobbefjord). Our results demonstrate an increasing important role of Arctic seagrass meadows in supporting sediment carbon sinks, likely to be enhanced with future Arctic warming.
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