Water, Air, and Soil Pollution

, Volume 64, Issue 1, pp 265–288

Carbon sinks in mangroves and their implications to carbon budget of tropical coastal ecosystems


  • R. R. Twilley
    • Department of BiologyUniversity of Southwestern Louisiana
  • R. H. Chen
    • Department of BiologyUniversity of Southwestern Louisiana
  • T. Hargis
    • Department of BiologyUniversity of Southwestern Louisiana
Part III Managing Natural Sinks of CO2

DOI: 10.1007/BF00477106

Cite this article as:
Twilley, R.R., Chen, R.H. & Hargis, T. Water Air Soil Pollut (1992) 64: 265. doi:10.1007/BF00477106


Nearly 50% of terrigenous materials delivered to the world's oceans are delivered through just twenty-one major river systems. These river-dominated coastal margins (including estuarine and shelf ecosystems) are thus important both to the regional enhancement of productivity and to the global flux of C that is observed in land-margin ecosystems. The tropical regions of the biosphere are the most biogeochemically active coastal regions and represent potentially important sinks of C in the biosphere. Rates of net primary productivity and biomass accumulation depend on a combination of global factors such as latitude and local factors such as hydrology. The global storage of C in mangrove biomass is estimated at 4.03 Pg C; and 70% of this C occurs in coastal margins from 0° to 10° latitude. The average rate of wood production is 12.08 Mg ha−1 yr−1, which is equivalent to a global estimate of 0.16 Pg C/yr stored in mangrove biomass. Together with carbon accumulation in mangrove sediments (0.02 Pg C/yr), the net ecosystem production in mangroves is about 0.18 Pg C/yr. Global estimates of export from coastal wetlands is about 0.08 Pg C/yr compared to input of 0.36 Pg C/yr from rivers to coastal ecosystems. Total allochthonous input of 0.44 Pg C/yr is lower than in situ production of 6.65 Pg C/yr. The trophic condition of coastal ecosystems depends on the fate of this total supply of 7.09 Pg C/yr as either contributing to system respiration, or becoming permanently stored in sediments. Accumulation of carbon in coastal sediments is only 0.41 Pg C/yr; about 6% of the total input. The NEP of coastal wetlands also contribute to the C sink of coastal margins, but the source of this C is part of the terrestrial C exchange with the atmosphere. Accumulation of C in wood and sediments of coastal wetlands is 0.205 Pg C/yr, half the estimate for sequestering of C in coastal sediments. Burial of C in shelf sediments is probably underestimated, particularly in tropical river-dominated coastal margins. Better estimates of these two C sinks in the tropics, coastal wetlands and shelf sediments, is needed to better understand the contribution of coastal ecosystems to the global carbon budget.

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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1992