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Appearance can be deceptive: shrubby native mangrove species contributes more to soil carbon sequestration than fast-growing exotic species



Increased recognition of mangrove high carbon storage potential has prompted carbon sequestration as one of the main goals in mangrove afforestation. In southern China, the introduced fast-growing Sonneratia apetala and native Kandelia obovata have been widely afforested since the mid-1980s. While S. apetala has spread extensively, the implications and ecosystem services are yet to be ascertained.


Soil/root coring was conducted in two 12-year-old S. apetala and K. obovata plantations, respectively. Fine-root mass and soil physicochemical properties were obtained and compared.


Fine-root mass and soil organic carbon stock ranged between 129 and 394 g m−2 and 7.9 and 15.8 Mg C ha−1, respectively. Soil organic carbon stock and fine-root mass were both significantly different between the forests. Organic carbon in soil is significantly correlated to fine-root mass and organic carbon in fine roots.


The contribution to soil organic carbon by fine-root mass may be different between the two species. Growth and physiological traits not only may influence stand characteristics but also soil properties that drive overall carbon accumulation. Contrary to the original expectation driving the introduction, the shrubby native K. obovata may have higher potential as a carbon sink than the introduced S. apetala.

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This research was funded by a National Nature Science Foundation Grant of China (41371109, 41771095, 51609269). The authors sincerely thank Wei Meng, Hsieh Chih Chung and Hongjie Huang for their help with fieldwork; Zhixiong Chen, Liqing Guo and Qingjuan Fan for their help with laboratory instruments and Shingting Fung for her help with sample processing, and Prof. Renduo Zhang from Sun Yat-Sen University for his valuable comments and suggestion on the earlier version of this manuscript. Thanks to three anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments that greatly improved the earlier version of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Yisheng Peng or Dongsheng Guan.

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Responsible Editor: Zucong Cai.

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He, Z., Peng, Y., Guan, D. et al. Appearance can be deceptive: shrubby native mangrove species contributes more to soil carbon sequestration than fast-growing exotic species. Plant Soil 432, 425–436 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-018-3821-4

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  • Mangrove afforestation
  • Carbon stocks
  • Fine-root biomass
  • Southern China
  • Kandelia obovata
  • Sonneratia apetala