Water, Air, and Soil Pollution

, Volume 64, Issue 1–2, pp 265–288 | Cite as

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

  • R. R. Twilley
  • R. H. Chen
  • T. Hargis
Part III Managing Natural Sinks of CO2


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.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Armentano, T.V. and G.M. Woodwell. (1975) ‘Sedimentation rates in a Long Island marsh by 210 Pb dating’, Limnology Oceanography 20, 452–456.Google Scholar
  2. Berner, R.A. (1982) ‘Burial of organic carbon and pyrite in the modern ocean: its geochemical and environmental significance, American Journal of Science 282, 451–473.Google Scholar
  3. Boto, K.G. and J.S. Bunt. (1981) ‘Tidal export of paniculate organic matter from a Northern Australian mangrove system’, EstuarineCoastal and Shelf Science 13, 247–255.Google Scholar
  4. Brown, S. and A.E. Lugo. (1982) ‘A comparison of structural and functional characteristics of saltwater and freshwater forested wetlands’, in B. Gopal, R. Turner, R. Wetzel, and D. Whigham (eds.), Wetlands Ecology and Management. Proceedings of the First International Wetlands Conference, New Delhi. National Institute of Ecology and International Scientific Publications, New Delhi, India, pp. 109–130.Google Scholar
  5. Christensen, B. (1978) ‘Biomass and primary production of Rhizophora apiculata Bl. in a mangrove forest in southern Thailand’, Aquatic Botany 4, 43–52.Google Scholar
  6. Cintrón, G., A.E. Lugo, D.J. Pool, and G. Morris. (1978) ‘Mangroves of arid environments in Puerto Rico and adjacent islands’, Biotropica 10, 110–121.Google Scholar
  7. Cintrón, G. and Y. Schaeffer-Novelli. (1984) ‘Caracteristicas y desarrollo estructural de los manglares de Norte y Sur America’, Programa Regional de Desarrollo Cientifico y Tecnologico 25, 4–15.Google Scholar
  8. Dagg, M., C. Grimes, S. Lohrenz, B. McKee, R. Twilley, and W. Wiseman, Jr. (1991) ‘Continental shelf food chains of the northern Gulf of Mexico’, pp. 67–106, in: K. Sherman, L. M. Alexander, and B.D. Gold (eds), Food Chains, Yields, Models, and Management of Large Marine Ecosystems. Westview Press, Boulder.Google Scholar
  9. Day, J., W. Conner, F. Ley-Lou, R. Day, and A. Machado. (1987) ‘The productivity and composition of mangrove forests, Laguna de Términos, Mexico’, Aquatic Botany 27, 267–284.Google Scholar
  10. Degens, E.T., S. Kempe, and J.E. Richey. (1991) ‘Summary: Biogeochemistry of major world rivers’, pp. 323–347. In: E.T. Degens, S. Kempe and J.E. Richey (eds). Biogeochemistry of Major World Rivers. SCOPE, John Wiley and Sons Ltd.Google Scholar
  11. Deuser, W.G. (1979) ‘Marine biota, nearshore sediments, and the global carbon balance’, Organic Geochemistry 1, 243–247.Google Scholar
  12. Deuser, W.G. (1988) ‘Whither organic carbon?’, Nature 332, 396–397.Google Scholar
  13. Ellison, J.C. and D.R. Stoddart. (1991) ‘Mangrove ecosystem collapse during predicted sea-level rise: Holocene analogues and implications’ Journal of Coastal Research 7, 151–165.Google Scholar
  14. Flores-Verdugo, F.J. Day, and R. Briseño-Duenas. (1986) ‘Structure, litterfall, decomposition, and detritus dynamics of mangroves in a Mexican coastal lagoon with an ephemeral inlet’, Marine Ecology Progress Series 35, 83–90.Google Scholar
  15. Frey, R.W. and P.B. Basan. (1978) Coastal salt marshes, pp. 101–169. In: R.A. Davis (ed.), Coastal Sedimentary Environments. Springer Verlag, New York.Google Scholar
  16. Gagliano, S.M., K.J. Meyer-Arendt and K.M. Wicker. (1981) ‘Land loss in the Mississippi River deltaic plain’, Transactions of the Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies 31, 295–300.Google Scholar
  17. Gearing, P.J., F.E. Plucker, and P.L. Parker. (1977) ‘Organic carbon stable isotope ratios of continental margin sediments’, Marine Chemistry 5, 251–266.Google Scholar
  18. Golley, F.B., H.T. Odum and R. Wilson. (1962) ‘A study of the structure and metabolism of a red mangrove forest in southern Puerto Rico in May’, Ecology 43, 9–18.Google Scholar
  19. Gong, W.K. and J.E. Ong. (1990) ‘Plant biomass and nutrient flux in a managed mangrove forest in Malaysia’, Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 31, 519–530.Google Scholar
  20. Gosselink, J.G. and R.E. Turner. (1978) ‘The role of hydrology in freshwater wetland ecosystems’, pp, 63–78. In R.E. Good, D.F. Whigham, and R.L. Simpson (eds.), Freshwater Wetlands: Ecological Processes and Management Potential. Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  21. Hatton, R.S., R.D. DeLaune, and W.H. Patrick, Jr. (1983) ‘Sedimentation, accretion, and subsidence in marshes of Barataria Basin, Louisiana’, Limnology and Oceanography 28, 494–502.Google Scholar
  22. Heald, EJ. (1969) ‘The production of organic detritus in a south Florida estuary’, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Miami, Coral Gables.Google Scholar
  23. Heald, E. (1971) ‘The production of organic detritus in a south Florida estuary’, University of Miami Sea Grant Technical Bulletin 6. 110 pp.Google Scholar
  24. Hopkinson, C.S.,Jr. (1988) ‘Patterns of organic carbon exchange between coastal ecosystems: The mass balance approach in salt marsh ecosystems’, pp. 122–154. In: B.O. Jansson (ed.), Coastal-Offshore Ecosystem Interactions. Springer-Verlag, Germany.Google Scholar
  25. Ittekkot, V. (1988) ‘Global trends in the nature of organic matter in river suspensions’, Nature 332, 436–438Google Scholar
  26. Lee, S.Y. (1989) ‘Litter production and turnover of the mangrove Kandelia candd (L.) Druce in a Hong Kong tidal shrimp pond’, Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 29, 75–87.Google Scholar
  27. Lee, S.Y. (1990) ‘Primary productivity and paniculate organic matter flow in an estuarine mangrove-wetland in Hong Kong’, Marine Biology 106, 453–463.Google Scholar
  28. Leh, C.M.U. and A. Sasekumar. (1985) ‘The food of sesarmid crabs in Malaysian mangrove forests’, Malay Naturalist Journal 39, 135–145.Google Scholar
  29. Lin, P., C.Y. Lu, G.H. Lin, R.H. Chen and L. Su. (1985) ‘The biomass and productivity of Kandelia candel community’, Journal of Xiamen University 14, 508–514.Google Scholar
  30. Lin, P., C.Y. Lu, G.L. Wang and H.X. Chen. (1990) ‘Biomass and productivity of Bruguiera sexangula mangrove forest in Hainan Island, China’, Journal of Xiamen University 29, 209–213.Google Scholar
  31. Lugo, A.E. (1978) ‘Stress and ecosystems’, pp. 62–101. In J.H. Thorp and J.W. Gibbons (eds), Energy and Environmental Stress. DOE 771114. Department of Energy, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  32. Lugo, A.E., and S.C. Snedaker. (1974) ‘The ecology of mangroves’, Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 5, 39–64.Google Scholar
  33. Lugo, A.E. and C. Patterson-Zucca. (1977) ‘The impact of low temperature stress on mangrove structure and growth’, Tropical Ecology 18, 149–161.Google Scholar
  34. Lugo, A.E., S. Brown, and M.M. Brinson. (1990) ‘Concepts in wetland ecology’, pp. 53–85. In: A.E. Lugo, M. Brinson, and S. Brown (eds.), Ecosystems of the World 15: Forested Wetlands. Elsevier, Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  35. Lynch, J.C. (1989) ‘Sedimentation and nutrient accumulation in mangrove ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico’, M.S. Thesis, University of Southwestern Louisiana, Lafayette, LA. 102 pp.Google Scholar
  36. Lynch, J.C., J.R. Meriwether, B.A. McKee, F. Vera-Herrera, and R.R. Twilley, R.R.(1989) ‘Recent accretion in mangrove ecosystems based on 137Cs and 210pb’, Estuaries 12, 284–299.Google Scholar
  37. Malley, D.F. (1978) ‘Degradation of mangrove leaf litter by the tropical sesarmid crab Chiromanthes onychophorum’, Marine Biology 49, 377–386.Google Scholar
  38. Mann, K.H. (1975) ‘Relationship between morphometry and biological functioning in three coastal inlets of Nova Scotia’, pp. 634–644. In: L.E. Cronin (ed.), Estuarine Research Vol. 1. Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  39. Meybeck, M. (1981) ‘Flux of organic carbon by rivers to the oceans’, pp. 219–269. National Technical Information Service, Springfield, Virginia.Google Scholar
  40. Meybeck, M. (1982) ‘Carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus transport by world rivers’, American Journal of Science 282, 401–450Google Scholar
  41. Meybeck, M. (1988) ‘How to establish and use world budgets of riverine materials’, pp. 247–272. În: A. Lerman and M. Meybeck (eds.). Physical and Chemical Weathering in Geochemical Cycles. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht.Google Scholar
  42. Milliman, J.D. and R.H. Meade. (1983) ‘World-wide delivery of river sediment to the oceans’, Journal of Geology 91, 1–21Google Scholar
  43. Nixon, S.W. (1980) ‘Between coastal marshes and coastal waters--a review of twenty years of speculation and research on the role of salt marshes in estuarine productivity and water chemistry’, pp. 437–525. In P. Hamilton and K.B. MacDonald (eds.), Estuarine and Wetland Processes with Emphasis on Modeling. Plenum Press, N.Y.Google Scholar
  44. Odum, W.E. and E.J. Heald. (1972) Trophic analysis of an estuarine mangrove community’, Bulletin Marine Science 22, 671–738.Google Scholar
  45. Odum, W.E., C.C. McIvor, and T.J. Smith, III. (1982) The ecology of the mangroves of south Florida: A community profile’, Fish and Wildlife Service/Office of Biological Services, Washington, D.C. FWS/OBS-81/24.Google Scholar
  46. Ong, J.E., W.K. Gong, C.H. Wong and Dhanarajan. (1979) ‘Productivity of a managed mangrove forest in West Malaysia’, Paper presented at International Conference on “ Trends in Applied Biology in S.E. Asia”, USM Penany, Malaysia.Google Scholar
  47. Pool, D.J., A.E. Lugo, and S.C. Snedaker. (1975) ‘Litter production in mangrove forests of southern Florida and Puerto Rico’, pp. 213–237. In Proceedings of the International Symposium on Biology and Management of Mangroves (Ed. G.E. Walsh, S.C. Snedaker, and H.J. Teas). Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville.Google Scholar
  48. Putz, F.E. and Chan, H.T. (1986) ‘Tree growth, dynamics and productivity in a mature mangrove forest in Malaysia’, Forest Ecology and Management 17, 211–230.Google Scholar
  49. Robertson, A.I. (1986) ‘Leaf-buring crabs:their influence on energy flow and export from mixed mangrove forests (Rhizophora spp.) in northeastern Australia’, Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 102, 237–248.Google Scholar
  50. Robertson, A.I. and P.A. Daniel. (1989) ‘The influence of crabs on litter processing in high intertidal mangrove forests in tropical Australia’, Oecologia 78, 191–198.Google Scholar
  51. Rowe, G. S. Smith, P. Falkowske, T. Whitledge, R. Theroux, W. Phoel and H. Ducklow. (1986) ‘Do continental shelves export organic matter?’ Nature 324, 55–66Google Scholar
  52. Ruffner, J.A. (1978) ‘Climates of the states; with current tables of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration normal 1940 to 1970 and means and extremes to 1975’, Vol. I. Gale Research Company, Detroit, MI, USA.Google Scholar
  53. Schlesinger, W.H. and J. M. Melack. (1981) Transport of organic carbon in the world's rivers’, Tellus 33, 172–187.Google Scholar
  54. Scoffin, T.P. (1970) ‘The trapping and binding of subtidal carbonate sediments by marine vegetation in Bimini Lagoon, Bahamas’, Journal of Sedimentary Petrology 40, 249–273.Google Scholar
  55. Sell, M.G., Jr. (1977) ‘Modelling the response of mangrove ecosystem of herbicide spraying, hurricanes, nutrient enrichment and economic development’, Dissertation. University of Florida. Gainesville, Florida, USA.Google Scholar
  56. Sharma, P., L.R. Gardner, W.S. Moore, and M.S. Bollinger. (1987) ‘Sedimentation and bioturbation in a salt marsh as revealed by lead-210, cesium-137, and beryllium-7 studies’, Limnology and Oceanography 32, 313–326.Google Scholar
  57. Shultz, D.J. and J.A. Calder. (1976) ‘Organic carbon 13C/12C variations in estuarine sediments’, Geochimica et Cosmichimica Acta 40, 381–385.Google Scholar
  58. Smith, S.V. (1981) ‘Marine macrophytes as a global carbon sink’, Science 211, 838–840.Google Scholar
  59. Smith, S.V. and F.T. Mackenzie. (1987) ‘The oceans as a net heterotrophic system: implications for the carbon biogeochemical cycle’, Global Biogeochemistry Cycles 1, 187–198Google Scholar
  60. Tans, P.P., I.Y. Fung, and T. Takahashi. (1990) ‘Observational constraints on the global atmosphere CO2 budget’, Science 247, 1431–1438.Google Scholar
  61. Thayer, G.W., J.J. Govoni and D. W. Connally. (1983) ‘Stable carbon isotope ratios of the planktonic food web in the northern Gulf of Mexico’, Bulletin of Marine Science 33, 246–256.Google Scholar
  62. Thom, B.G. (1982) ‘Mangrove ecology- a geomorphological perspective’, pp 3–17. In: B.F. Clough (ed.), Mangrove Ecosystems in Australia. Australian National University Press, Canberra.Google Scholar
  63. Twilley, R.R. (1982) ‘Litter dynamics and organic carbon exchange in black mangrove (Avicennia germinans) basin forests in a southwest Florida estuary’, Ph.D. dissertation. University of Florida, Gainesville.Google Scholar
  64. Twilley, R.R. (1985) ‘The exchange of organic carbon in basin mangrove forests in a southwest Florida estuary’, Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 20, 543–557.Google Scholar
  65. Twilley, R.R., A.E. Lugo, and C. Patterson-Zucca. (1986) ‘Production, standing crop, and decomposition of litter in basin mangrove forests in southwest Florida’, Ecology 67, 670–683.Google Scholar
  66. Twilley, R.R. (1988) ‘Coupling of mangroves to the productivity of estuarine and coastal waters’, pp 155–180. In: B.O. Jansson (ed.), Coastal-Offshore Ecosystem Interactions. Springer-Verlag, Germany.Google Scholar
  67. Twilley, R.R, R. Zimmerman, L. Solorzano, V. Rivera-Monroy, A. Bodero, R. Zambrano, M. Pozo, V. Garcia, K. Loor, R. Garcia, W. Cardenas, N. Gaibor, J. Espinoza, and J. Lynch. (1990) ‘The importance of mangroves in sustaining fisheries and controlling water quality in coastal ecosystems’, Interim Report, U.S.Agency for International Development, Program in Science and Technology Cooperation, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  68. Twilley, R.R. (in press) ‘Energy signature and properties of mangrove ecosystems’, In: C. Hall (ed.), Maximum power.Google Scholar
  69. van Heerden, I.L. (1983) ‘Deltaic sedimentation in eastern Atchafalaya Bay, Louisiana’, Ph.D. thesis, Department of Marine Science. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, pp. 116.Google Scholar
  70. Walsh, J.J. (1983) ‘Death in the sea: Enigmatic phytoplankton losses’, Progressin Oceanography 12, 1–86.Google Scholar
  71. Walsh, JJ. (1984) ‘The role of ocean biota in accelerated ecological cycles: A temporal view’ BioScience 34, 499–507.Google Scholar
  72. Walsh, J.J. (1988) ‘On the nature of continental shelves’, Academic Press. 508 ppGoogle Scholar
  73. Walsh, J.J., G.T. Rowe, R.L. Iverson, and C.P McRoy. (1981) ‘Biological export of shelf carbon is a sink of the global CO2 cycle’, Nature 291, 196–201.Google Scholar
  74. Walsh, J.J., E. Premuzic, J. Gaffney, G. Rowe, G. Harbottle, R. Stoenner, W. Balsam, P. Betzer and S.M. Betzer (1985) ‘Organic stoarage of CO2 on the continental slope off the midAtlantic, bight, the southeastern Bering Sea, and the Peru coast’, Deep Sea Research 32, 853–883Google Scholar
  75. Warner, J.H. (1990) ‘Successional patterns in a mangrove forest in southwestern Florida, USA’, M.S. thesis, University of Southwestern Louisiana, Lafayette, LA. 74 pp.Google Scholar
  76. Watson, J. (1928) ‘Mangrove forests of the Malay Peninsula’, Malayan Forest Records 6. Fraser & Neave, Ltd., Singapore, 275 pp.Google Scholar
  77. Welsh, B.L., R.B. Whitlatch and W.F. Bohlen. (1982) ‘Relationship between physical characteristics and organic carbon sources as a basis for comparing estuaries in southern New England’, pp. 53–67. In: V.S. Kennedy (ed.). Estuarine Comparisons. Academic Press, N.Y.Google Scholar
  78. Wharton, C.H. and M.M. Brinson. (1979) ‘Characteristics of southeastern river systems’, pp. 32–40. In: R.R. Johnson and J.F. McCormick (eds), Strategies for Protection and Management of Floodplain Wetlands and Other Riparian Ecosystems. Symposium Proceedings, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  79. Wollast, R.and F.T. MacKenzie. (1989) ‘Global biogeochemical cycles and climate’, pp. 453–473. In: A. Berger (ed.), Climate and Geo-sciences. Kluver Acad. Publ. Hingham, MAGoogle Scholar
  80. Woodroffe, C.D. (1985) ‘Studies of a mangrove basin, Tuff Crater, New Zealand: II. Comparison of volumetric and velocity-area methods of estimating tidal flux’, Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 20, 431–445.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. R. Twilley
    • 1
  • R. H. Chen
    • 1
  • T. Hargis
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of Southwestern LouisianaLafayetteUSA

Personalised recommendations