The role of the upper tidal estuary in wetland blue carbon storage and flux

Global Biogeochemical Cycles
By: , and 



Carbon (C) standing stocks, C mass balance, and soil C burial in tidal freshwater forested wetlands (TFFW) and TFFW transitioning to low‐salinity marshes along the upper estuary are not typically included in “blue carbon” accounting, but may represent a significant C sink. Results from two salinity transects along the tidal Waccamaw and Savannah rivers of the US Atlantic Coast show total C standing stocks were 321‐1264 Mg C ha‐1 among all sites, generally shifting to greater soil storage as salinity increased. Carbon mass balance inputs (litterfall, woody growth, herbaceous growth, root growth, surface accumulation) minus C outputs (surface litter and root decomposition, gaseous C) over a period of up to 11 years were 340‐900 g C m‐2 yr‐1. Soil C burial was variable (7‐337 g C m‐2 yr‐1), and lateral C export was estimated as C mass balance minus soil C burial as 267‐849 g C m‐2yr‐1. This represents a large amount of C export to support aquatic biogeochemical transformations. Despite reduced C persistence within emergent vegetation, decomposition of organic matter, and higher lateral C export, total C storage increased as forests converted to marsh with salinization. These tidal river wetlands exhibited high N mineralization in salinity‐stressed forested sites and considerable P mineralization in low salinity marshes. Large C standing stocks and rates of C sequestration suggest that TFFW and oligohaline marshes are considerably important globally to coastal C dynamics and in facilitating energy transformations in areas of the world in which they occur.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title The role of the upper tidal estuary in wetland blue carbon storage and flux
Series title Global Biogeochemical Cycles
DOI 10.1029/2018GB005897
Volume 32
Issue 5
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher AGU
Contributing office(s) Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
Description 23 p.
First page 817
Last page 839
Country United States
State Georgia, South Carolina
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