Environmental Management

, Volume 56, Issue 4, pp 998–1008 | Cite as

Carbon Sequestration in Tidal Salt Marshes of the Northeast United States

  • Katherine DrakeEmail author
  • Holly Halifax
  • Susan C. Adamowicz
  • Christopher Craft


Tidal salt marshes provide important ecological services, habitat, disturbance regulation, water quality improvement, and biodiversity, as well as accumulation and sequestration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in vegetation and soil organic matter. Different management practices may alter their capacity to provide these ecosystem services. We examined soil properties (bulk density, percent organic C, percent N), C and N pools, C sequestration and N accumulation at four marshes managed with open marsh water management (OMWM) and four marshes that were not at U.S. Fish and Wildlife National Wildlife Refuges (NWRs) on the East Coast of the United States. Soil properties (bulk density, percent organic C, percent N) exhibited no consistent differences among managed and non-OMWM marshes. Soil organic carbon pools (0–60-cm depth) also did not differ. Managed marshes contained 15.9 kg C/m2 compared to 16.2 kg C/m2 in non-OMWM marshes. Proportionately, more C (per unit volume) was stored in surface than in subsurface soils. The rate of C sequestration, based on 137Cs and 210Pb dating of soil cores, ranged from 41 to 152 g/m2/year. Because of the low emissions of CH4 from salt marshes relative to freshwater wetlands and the ability to sequester C in soil, protection and restoration of salt marshes can be a vital tool for delivering key ecosystem services, while at the same time, reducing the C footprint associated with managing these wetlands.


Salt marsh Radiometric dating Carbon sequestration Management US National Wildlife Refuge Carbon trading 



We would like to thank Annie Bowling and Ellen Herbert for their help with field sampling and laboratory analyses. We would also like to thank our friends at the Refuges studied for their assistance in preparation and in the field: Sarah Janson, Nancy Pau, Curt Kessler, Monica Williams, Paul Castelli, and William Crouch. We also thank our two anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful and comprehensive comments. Funding for this study was provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Land Management Research and Demonstration Areas. The findings and conclusions in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine Drake
    • 1
    Email author
  • Holly Halifax
    • 1
    • 2
  • Susan C. Adamowicz
    • 3
  • Christopher Craft
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Public and Environmental AffairsIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA
  2. 2.US Government Accountability OfficeWashingtonUSA
  3. 3.Rachel Carson National Wildlife RefugeWellsUSA

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