Low Blue Carbon Storage in Eelgrass (Zostera Marina) Meadows on the Pacific Coast of Canada

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Scholarly level: 
Graduate student (Masters)
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Postlethwaite VR, McGowan AE, Kohfeld KE, Robinson CLK, Pellatt MG (2018) Low blue carbon storage in eelgrass (Zostera marina) meadows on the Pacific Coast of Canada. PLoS ONE 13(6): e0198348. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0198348.

Date created: 

Seagrass habitats provide important ecosystem services, including their ability to take up and store substantial amounts of organic carbon, known as ‘blue carbon.’ However, the paucity of geospatial and carbon storage information along the Pacific Coast of Canada hinders the inclusion of blue carbon storage data in conservation planning and policy development in coastal habitats. We assessed the carbon storage and accumulation rates in three eelgrass (Zostera marina) meadows in southern Clayoquot Sound on the Pacific Coast of British Columbia. The intertidal and subtidal portions of each meadow were mapped and sampled to estimate eelgrass density, biomass, and carbon, and sediment cores were analyzed to estimate sediment carbon storage and accumulation rates. Aboveground biomass measurements were consistent with estimates for Zmarina in other regions, with average aboveground carbon biomass estimates of 16.78 g C m-2 and 16.25 g C m-2 in the intertidal and subtidal areas, respectively. However, the estimated aboveground to belowground biomass ratio was an order of magnitude higher than for seagrass species in temperate/tropical areas, largely because belowground biomass was up to 10 times lower than for other Zmarina meadows, averaging 6.17 g C m-2 and 5.03 g C m-2 in the intertidal and subtidal zones, respectively. Sediment carbon concentrations did not exceed 1.30%Corg, and carbon accumulation rates ranged from 2.90–39.61 g Corg m-2 yr-1, decreasing with depth and averaging 10.8 ± 5.2 g Corg m-2 yr-1. While sediment carbon stocks were generally higher in the eelgrass meadows relative to non-vegetated reference sites, carbons stocks averaged 1343 ± 482 g Corg m-2, substantially less than global averages. These carbon results confirm that eelgrass does contribute to carbon storage in Clayoquot Sound but at lower rates than identified for more tropical seagrasses. By improving the quantification of site-specific carbon dynamics, eelgrass’ role in climate change mitigation and conservation planning can be assessed.

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