Worldwide, seagrass meadows accumulate significant stocks of organic carbon (C), known as “blue” carbon, which can remain buried for decades to centuries. However, when seagrass meadows are disturbed, these C stocks may be remineralized, leading to significant CO2 emissions. Increasing ocean temperatures, and increasing frequency and severity of heat waves, threaten seagrass meadows and their sediment blue C. To date, no study has directly measured the impact of seagrass declines from high temperatures on sediment C stocks. Here, we use a long-term record of sediment C stocks from a 7-km2, restored eelgrass (Zostera marina) meadow to show that seagrass dieback following a single marine heat wave (MHW) led to significant losses of sediment C. Patterns of sediment C loss and re-accumulation lagged patterns of seagrass recovery. Sediment C losses were concentrated within the central area of the meadow, where sites experienced extreme shoot density declines of 90% during the MHW and net losses of 20% of sediment C over the following 3 years. However, this effect was not uniform; outer meadow sites showed little evidence of shoot declines during the MHW and had net increases of 60% of sediment C over the following 3 years. Overall, sites with higher seagrass recovery maintained 1.7x as much C compared to sites with lower recovery. Our study demonstrates that while seagrass blue C is vulnerable to MHWs, localization of seagrass loss can prevent meadow-wide C losses. Long-term (decadal and beyond) stability of seagrass blue C depends on seagrass resilience to short-term disturbance events.
Blue Carbon & Sequestration
Based on the 2019 assessment of the Global Carbon Project, the ocean took up on average, 2.5 ± 0.6 PgC yr−1 or 23 ± 5% of the total anthropogenic CO2 emissions over the decade 2009–2018. This sink estimate is based on simulation results from global ocean biogeochemical models (GOBMs) and is compared to data-products based on observations of surface ocean pCO2 (partial pressure of CO2) accounting for the outgassing of river-derived CO2. Here we evaluate the GOBM simulations by comparing the simulated surface ocean pCO2 to observations. Based on this comparison, the simulations are well-suited for quantifying the global ocean carbon sink on the time-scale of the annual mean and its multi-decadal trend (RMSE <20 μatm), as well as on the time-scale of multi-year variability (RMSE <10 μatm), despite the large model-data mismatch on the seasonal time-scale (RMSE of 20–80 μatm). Biases in GOBMs have a small effect on the global mean ocean sink (0.05 PgC yr−1), but need to be addressed to improve the regional budgets and model-data comparison. Accounting for non-mapped areas in the data-products reduces their spread as measured by the standard deviation by a third. There is growing evidence and consistency among methods with regard to the patterns of the multi-year variability of the ocean carbon sink, with a global stagnation in the 1990s and an extra-tropical strengthening in the 2000s. GOBMs and data-products point consistently to a shift from a tropical CO2 source to a CO2 sink in recent years. On average, the GOBMs reveal less variations in the sink than the data-based products. Despite the reasonable simulation of surface ocean pCO2 by the GOBMs, there are discrepancies between the resulting sink estimate from GOBMs and data-products. These discrepancies are within the uncertainty of the river flux adjustment, increase over time, and largely stem from the Southern Ocean. Progress in our understanding of the global ocean carbon sink necessitates significant advancement in modeling and observing the Southern Ocean carbon sink including (i) a game-changing increase in high-quality pCO2 observations, and (ii) a critical re-evaluation of the regional river flux adjustment.
As urbanisation pressures on ecosystems are set to increase, trade-offs between ecosystem service are also likely to increase. Management strategies that minimise trade-offs and promote sustainable development to optimise ecosystem multi-functionality are therefore needed. Many coastal cities may however struggle to find the resources and capacity to operationalise ecosystem service agendas. Therefore, the objective of this study is to propose and test the suitability of a multi-functional landscape approach to ecosystem service assessments using the case study of Singapore, with focus on five ecosystem services: water and air pollution control, global climate, local temperature and recreational potential services. Our results show clear heterogeneity in the capacity of mangroves to supply different ecosystem services, with a general tendency for greater amounts of supply in larger mangrove patches, and for ecosystem services to aggregate producing hotspots of supply. Overall, a 24% of the mangrove landscape supported aggregations of at least one, two or three ecosystem services, but only <1% of the mangrove landscape supporting overlapping aggregations of all five services. Ecosystem services also co-varied to produce trade-offs and synergies, with ecosystem service bundling largely driven by regulating services. Areas of ecosystem service synergy and hotsport overlap represent possible priority areas of future conservation or management, and highlight what might be lost if significant degradation were allowed to occur. Further, the large spatial mismatch among ecosystem service hotspots also highlights the difficulty in identifying single areas capable of delivering substantial amounts of multiple ecosystem services. We conclude that this framework provides a basis to look at ecosystem services in combination, as well as individually, and to do so in a spatially explicit manner than can be overlaid with maps of land use or other development planning.
Seagrass and associated blue carbon ecosystems are important carbon sinks, and hence understanding their spatial and temporal variability is vital in appreciating their potential roles in climate change mitigation and adaptation. The Indo-Pacific region has the highest seagrass biodiversity, yet little focus has been made to compare seagrass habitat extent and carbon dynamics with their temperate counterparts. The present study assessed habitat characteristics and seagrass species distribution, diversity, and carbon storage in Eastern (marine) and Western (estuarine) mangrove-fringed creeks of Gazi Bay, Kenya. Data on species composition, canopy cover, biomass, and sediment organic carbon were collected in 80 plots of 0.25 × 0.25 m laid along transects established perpendicular to the waterline. Five species formation, viz., Thalassia hemprichii, Cymodocea rotundata, Cymodocea serrulata, Enhalus acoroides, and Thalassidendron ciliatum, were encountered as either single or mixed stands. There was a significant difference in total seagrass biomass between creeks (p < 0.01), with the Eastern creek recording a mean of 10.2 ± 0.6 Mg C ha–1 while the Western creek recording 4.3 ± 0.3 Mg C ha–1. In addition, sediment carbon to 1-m depth varied significantly (p < 0.01) between species in the two creeks and ranged from 98 to 302 Mg C ha–1, with the Eastern and Western creeks recording means of 258 ± 90 and 107 ± 21 Mg C ha–1, respectively. The total carbon stock from 50 ha of seagrasses in the Eastern creek was 13,420 Mg C, whereas in the 70 ha of the Western creek it was 7,769 Mg C. The study shows that seagrass community attributes such as species composition and productivity can vary dramatically over a small spatial extent due to differences in biophysical conditions and caution estimations of site-specific carbon stocks using generalized global values.
Seagrass meadows are important for carbon storage, this carbon is known as “blue carbon” and represents a vital ecosystem service. Recently there has been growing interest in connectivity between ecosystems and the potential for connected ecosystems to facilitative ecosystem services. Tropical seagrass meadows are connected to coral reefs, as the reef barrier dissipates waves, which facilitates sediment accumulation and avoid erosion and export. Therefore, coral reefs might enhance the seagrass meadows capacity as a blue carbon sink. We tested this hypothesis through an assessment of blue carbon across a gradient of connected seagrass meadow and coral reef sites. We assessed attributes of seagrass meadows along a transect in addition to classifying the sites as exposed and sheltered. Classification of sites was completed through analyzing wave crest density in photographs and using granulometric evenness index. Organic carbon and organic matter were measured in sediment core samples and within seagrass living biomass (both above and below ground). Lastly, we measured changes in above and below ground traits of seagrass plants across the same sites. Gaps in the reef barrier were linked to high wave disturbance and exposed conditions, whilst barrier continuity to low wave disturbance and sheltered conditions. Organic carbon in sediments was 144 Mg ha–1 in the most sheltered (with reef barrier) and 91 Mg ha–1 in the most exposed (without reef barrier) meadows. Sheltered conditions also showed a redistribution of seagrass biomass to a greater quantity of roots compared to rhizomes. Whilst in exposed conditions the opposite occurred, which could be due to increased rhizome biomass have to enhanced anchorage or greater nutrient availability. This study found that coral reefs facilitate blue carbon potential in seagrass meadows indicating that coral reefs support this important ecosystem service. Also, results suggest that loss of coral reef structure due to bleaching and other stressors will likely result in a reduction of the blue carbon storage capacity of adjacent seagrass meadow. Further research should investigate how combined global and regional stresses may impact on the potential for coral reefs to buffer seagrass meadows, and how these stresses affect the functional traits of seagrass plants.
Blue carbon ecosystems (including saltmarsh, mangrove, seagrass meadows, and other soft sediment habitats) play a valuable role in aquatic carbon dynamics and contribute significantly to global climate change mitigation. However, these habitats are undergoing rapid and accelerating shifts in extent due to climate change and anthropogenic impacts. Here, we demonstrate that blue carbon stocks vary across habitats and that cross-habitat subsidies of carbon contribute significantly to blue carbon stocks. Using a case study estuary from New Zealand, organic carbon stocks in above ground biomass and sediment to 100 cm varied significantly between habitat types, from saltmarsh (90 t ha–1), to mangrove (46 t ha–1), to seagrass (27 t ha–1) and unvegetated habitats (26 t ha–1). Despite being typically overlooked in blue carbon literature, unvegetated habitats contained the majority of estuarine carbon stocks when adjusted for their large extent within the estuary (occupying 68.4% of the estuarine area and containing 57% of carbon stocks). When carbon stocks were further refined based on δ13C and δ15N mixing model results, coastal vegetation (saltmarsh, mangrove, and seagrass) was found to provide important cross-habitat subsidies of carbon throughout the estuary, including contributing an estimated 41% of organic carbon within unvegetated sediments, and 51% of the total carbon stock throughout the estuary (yet occupying only 31.6% of the estuary). Given the connected nature of blue carbon ecosystems these findings illustrate the importance of considering the contribution and cross-habitat subsidies of both vegetated and unvegetated habitats to blue carbon stocks in estuaries. This provides critical context when assessing the impact of shifts in habitat distributions due to impacts from climate change and anthropogenic stressors.
Historically, coastal “blue carbon” ecosystems (tidal marshes, mangrove forests, seagrass meadows) have been impacted and degraded by human intervention, mainly in the form of land acquisition. With increasing recognition of the role of blue carbon ecosystems in climate mitigation, protecting and rehabilitating these ecosystems becomes increasingly more important. This study evaluated the potential carbon gains from rehabilitating a degraded coastal tidal marsh site in south-eastern Australia. Tidal exchange at the study site had been restricted by the construction of earthen barriers for the purpose of reclaiming land for commercial salt production. Analysis of sediment cores (elemental carbon and 210Pb dating) revealed that the site had stopped accumulating carbon since it had been converted to salt ponds 65 years earlier. In contrast, nearby recovered (“control”) tidal marsh areas are still accumulating carbon at relatively high rates (0.54 tons C ha–1year–1). Using elevation and sea level rise (SLR) data, we estimated the potential future distribution of tidal marsh vegetation if the earthen barrier were removed and tidal exchange was restored to the degraded site. We estimated that the sediment-based carbon gains over the next 50 years after restoring this small site (360 ha) would be 9,000 tons C, which could offset the annual emissions of ∼7,000 passenger cars at present time (at 4.6 metric tons pa.) or ∼1,400 Australians. Overall, we recommend that this site is a promising prospect for rehabilitation based on the opportunity for blue carbon additionality, and that the business case for rehabilitation could be bolstered through valuation of other co-benefits, such as nitrogen removal, support to fisheries, sediment stabilization, and enhanced biodiversity.
Mangroves provide many ecosystem services including a considerable capacity to sequester and store large amounts of carbon, both in the sediment and in the above-ground biomass. Assessment of mangrove above-ground carbon stock relies on accurate measurement of tree biomass, which traditionally involves collecting direct measurements from trees and relating these to biomass using allometric relationships. We investigated the potential to predict tree biomass using measurements derived from unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or drone, imagery. This approach has the potential to dramatically reduce time-consuming fieldwork, providing greater spatial survey coverage and return for effort, and may enable data to be collected in otherwise hazardous or inaccessible areas. We imaged an Avicennia marina (grey mangrove) stand using an RGB camera mounted on a UAV. The imaged trees were subsequently felled, enabling physical measurements to be taken for traditional biomass estimation techniques, as well as direct measurements of biomass and tissue carbon content. UAV image-based tree height measurements were highly accurate (R2 = 0.98). However, the variables that could be measured from the UAV imagery (tree height and canopy area) were poor predictors of tree biomass. Using the physical measurement data, we identified that trunk diameter is a key predictor of A. marina biomass. Unfortunately, trunk diameter cannot be directly measured from the UAV imagery, but it can be predicted (with some error) using models that incorporate other UAV image-based measurements, such as tree height and canopy area. However, reliance on second-order estimates of trunk diameter leads to increased uncertainty in the subsequent predictions of A. marina biomass, compared to using physical measurements of trunk diameter taken directly from the trees. Our study demonstrates that there is potential to use UAV-based imagery to measure mangrove A. marina tree structural characteristics and biomass. Further refinement of the relationship between UAV image-based measurements and tree diameter is needed to reduce error in biomass predictions. UAV image-based estimates can be made far more quickly and over extensive areas when compared to traditional data collection techniques and, with improved accuracy through further model-calibration, have the potential to be a powerful tool for mangrove biomass and carbon storage estimation.
Estimates of organic carbon (Corg) storage by seagrass meadows which consider inter-habitat variability are essential to understand their potential to sequester carbon dioxide (CO2) and derive robust global and regional estimates of blue carbon storage. In this study, we provide baseline estimates of seagrass extent, and soil Corg stocks and accumulation rates from different seagrass habitats at Rottnest Island (in Amphibolis spp., Posidonia spp., Halophila ovalis, and mixed Posidonia/Amphibolis spp. meadows). The Corg stocks in 0.5 m thick seagrass soil deposits, derived from 24 cores, were 5.1 ± 0.7 kg Corg m–2(mean ± SE, ranging from 0.05 to 12.9 kg Corg m–2), accumulating at 23.2 ± 3.2 g Corg m–2 year–1(ranging from 0.22 to 58.9 g Corg m–2 year–1) over the last decades. There were significant differences in Corg content (%) and stocks (mg Corg cm–3), stable carbon isotope composition of the soil organic matter (δ13C), and soil grain size among the seagrass meadows studied, highlighting that biotic and abiotic factors influence seagrass soil Corg storage. Mixed meadows of Posidonia/Amphibolis spp. and monospecific meadows of Posidonia spp. and Amphibolis spp. had the highest Corg stocks (ranging from 6.2 to 6.4 kg Corg m–2), while Halophila spp. meadows had the lowest Corg stocks (1.2 ± 0.6 kg Corg m–2). We estimated a total soil Corg stock of 48.1 ± 8.5 Gg Corg beneath the 755 ha of Rottnest Island’s seagrasses, and a Corg sequestration capacity of 0.81 ± 0.06 Gg Corg year–1, which is equivalent to the sequestration of ∼22% of the island’s current annual CO2 emissions. Our results contribute to the existing global dataset on seagrass soil Corg storage and show a significant potential of seagrass to sequester CO2, which are particularly relevant in the context of achieving carbon neutrality through conservation actions in environmentally-marketed, tourist destinations such as Rottnest Island.
These Mapping and estimation of seagrass total above-ground carbon (STAGC) using satellite-based techniques are required to fast-track the achievement of the 2020 agenda on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 14th. This attainment is possible as seagrass habitats provide a critical coastal ecosystem for storing blue carbon stock, sediment accumulation, fisheries production and stabilisation of coastal environment. However, seagrasses are generally declining across the globe due to anthropogenic disturbance, resulting in a prolonged growth rate of seagrasses that varies according to the species compositions. Therefore, this study aims at mapping and estimation of seagrass total above-ground carbon (STAGC) using Landsat ETM+ in the coastline of Penang. These satellite images were calibrated with Bottom Reflected Index (BRI) and Depth Invariant Index (DII) to compare the estimate of the STAGC for more accuracy. The leaving radiances of the seagrass were correlated with the corresponding in-situ measurements to predict seagrass carbon. This established relationship with BRI image shown a healthy correlation with STAGB (R2 = 0.992, p ≤ 0.001). Whereas the STAGB versus DII relationship has less accuracy (R2 = 0.955, p ≤ 0.01), adjusted R2 = 0.980 and 0.978 were recorded for both BRI and DII STAGC estimate using the logistic model. Therefore, careful management of blue carbon stock is essential, as this study shall contribute to achieving targets 14.2 and 14.5 of SDG 14th by the United Nations.