Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 41, Issue 5, pp 1496–1510 | Cite as

Coastal Blue Carbon Assessment of Mangroves, Salt Marshes, and Salt Barrens in Tampa Bay, Florida, USA

  • Kara R. Radabaugh
  • Ryan P. MoyerEmail author
  • Amanda R. Chappel
  • Christina E. Powell
  • Ioana Bociu
  • Barbara C. Clark
  • Joseph M. Smoak


Compared to other terrestrial environments, coastal “blue carbon” habitats such as salt marshes and mangrove forests sequester disproportionately large amounts of carbon as standing plant biomass and peat deposits. This study quantified organic carbon stocks in 16 salt marshes, salt barrens, and mangrove forests in Tampa Bay, Florida, USA. The sites included natural, restored, and created wetlands of varying ages and degrees of anthropogenic impacts. Peat deposits were generally less than 30-cm deep and organic content rapidly decreased with depth in all habitats. The top 15 cm of mangrove soil contained an average of 11.0% organic carbon by weight, salt marshes contained 6.6%, and salt barrens contained 1.0%. Total organic carbon stock in mangroves was 133.6 ± 12.8 Mg ha−1, with 69.5% of that carbon stored belowground. Salt marshes contained 66.4 ± 25.0 Mg ha−1 (93.5% belowground carbon), and salt barrens contained 26.6 ± 8.3 Mg ha−1 (96.1% belowground carbon). These values were much lower than global averages for carbon stocks in mangroves and salt marshes, likely due to Tampa Bay’s location near the northern limit of mangrove habitat, sandy soil, young age of the restored wetlands, presence of mosquito ditches, and recent habitat conversion from salt marshes to mangroves. In the late 1800s, Tampa Bay’s coastal wetlands were dominated by salt marshes, but today they are dominated by mangroves. Based on the blue carbon values from the natural sites in this study, this habitat switching has led to the additional sequestration of 141,000 Mg of carbon in remaining wetlands in the Tampa Bay watershed.


Blue carbon Salt marsh Mangrove Peat Soil carbon Loss on ignition 



This study served as a component of the Tampa Bay Blue Carbon Assessment. Field efforts and carbon stock calculations were completed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The authors also wish to thank the Southwest Florida Water Management District, FWC’s Stock Enhancement Research Facility, Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Manatee County, Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve, Terra Ceia Preserve State Park, Tampa Electric Co., and the Suncoast Youth Conservation Center for providing property access. Field assistance was provided by J Christian, K Guindon, R Lucas, J Polley, J Rhyne, R Rodriguez, R Runnels, J Sneed, and A Wilcox. Elemental analysis of salt marsh samples was performed by E Goddard (University of South Florida, lab of D Hollander); mangrove samples were prepared by J Breithaupt and S Hussain and analyzed by C Sanders (Southern Cross University). We are grateful to S Emmett-Mattox, S Crooks, G Raulerson, E Sherwood, and two anonymous reviewers for their guidance and comments which greatly improved the quality of this study.


Funding was provided by Restore America’s Estuaries and the Tampa Bay Environmental Restoration Fund.

Supplementary material

12237_2017_362_MOESM1_ESM.docx (152 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 151 kb)


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kara R. Radabaugh
    • 1
  • Ryan P. Moyer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Amanda R. Chappel
    • 1
  • Christina E. Powell
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ioana Bociu
    • 1
    • 3
  • Barbara C. Clark
    • 1
    • 4
  • Joseph M. Smoak
    • 5
  1. 1.Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation CommissionFish and Wildlife Research InstituteSaint PetersburgUSA
  2. 2.Louisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  3. 3.Florida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  4. 4.Saint Petersburg CollegeSaint PetersburgUSA
  5. 5.University of South Florida Saint PetersburgSaint PetersburgUSA

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