Seagrass ecosystems as a globally significant carbon stock

James W. Fourqurean*, Carlos Duarte, Hilary Kennedy, Núria Marbà, Marianne Holmer, Miguel Angel Mateo, Eugenia T. Apostolaki, Gary A. Kendrick, Dorte Krause-Jensen, Karen J. McGlathery, Oscar Serrano

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

762 Scopus citations

Abstract

The protection of organic carbon stored in forests is considered as an important method for mitigating climate change. Like terrestrial ecosystems, coastal ecosystems store large amounts of carbon, and there are initiatives to protect these 'blue carbon' stores. Organic carbon stocks in tidal salt marshes and mangroves have been estimated, but uncertainties in the stores of seagrass meadows-some of the most productive ecosystems on Earth-hinder the application of marine carbon conservation schemes. Here, we compile published and unpublished measurements of the organic carbon content of living seagrass biomass and underlying soils in 946 distinct seagrass meadows across the globe. Using only data from sites for which full inventories exist, we estimate that, globally, seagrass ecosystems could store as much as 19.9 Pg organic carbon; according to a more conservative approach, in which we incorporate more data from surface soils and depth-dependent declines in soil carbon stocks, we estimate that the seagrass carbon pool lies between 4.2 and 8.4 Pg carbon. We estimate that present rates of seagrass loss could result in the release of up to 299 Tg carbon per year, assuming that all of the organic carbon in seagrass biomass and the top metre of soils is remineralized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)505-509
Number of pages5
JournalNature Geoscience
Volume5
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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