Hydrologic export is a major component of coastal wetland carbon budgets

Global Biogeochemical Cycles
By: , and 



Coastal wetlands are among the most productive habitats on Earth and sequester globally significant amounts of atmospheric carbon (C). Extreme rates of soil C accumulation are widely assumed to reflect efficient C storage. Yet the fraction of wetland C lost via hydrologic export has not been directly quantified, since comprehensive budgets including direct estimates of lateral C loss are lacking. We present a complete net ecosystem C budget (NECB), demonstrating that lateral losses of C are a major component of the NECB for the largest stable brackish tidal marsh on the U.S. Pacific coast. Mean annual net ecosystem exchange of CO2 with the atmosphere (NEE = −185 g C m2 year−1, negative NEE denoting ecosystem uptake) was compared to long-term soil C burial (87–110 g C m2 year−1), suggesting only 47–59% of fixed atmospheric C accumulates in soils. Consistently, direct monitoring in 2017–2018 showed NEE of −255 g C m−2 year−1, and hydrologic export of 105 g C m−2 year−1 (59% of NEE remaining on site). Despite their high C sequestration capacity, lateral losses from coastal wetlands are typically a larger fraction of the NECB when compared to other terrestrial ecosystems. Loss of inorganic C (the least measured NECB term) was 91% of hydrologic export and may be the most important term limiting C sequestration. The high productivity of coastal wetlands thus serves a dual function of C burial and estuarine export, and the multiple fates of fixed C must be considered when evaluating wetland capacity for C sequestration.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Hydrologic export is a major component of coastal wetland carbon budgets
Series title Global Biogeochemical Cycles
DOI 10.1029/2019GB006430
Volume 34
Issue 8
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Contributing office(s) California Water Science Center, WMA - Earth System Processes Division
Description e2019GB006430, 14 p.
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