Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 41, Issue 6, pp 1732–1743 | Cite as

Seagrass Organic Carbon Stocks Show Minimal Variation Over Short Time Scales in a Heterogeneous Subtropical Seascape

  • Jimena Samper-Villarreal
  • Peter J. Mumby
  • Megan I. Saunders
  • Chris Roelfsema
  • Catherine E. Lovelock


Blue carbon initiatives require accurate monitoring of carbon stocks. We examined sources of variability in seagrass organic carbon (Corg) stocks, contrasting spatial with short temporal scales. Seagrass morphology and sediment Corg stocks were measured from biomass and shallow sediment cores collected in Moreton Bay, Australia. Samples were collected between 2012 and 2013, from a total of 77 sites that spanned a gradient of water turbidity. Environmental measures of water quality between 2000 and 2013 revealed strong seasonal fluctuations from summer to winter, yet seagrass biomass exhibited no temporal variation. There was no temporal variability in Corg stocks, other than below ground biomass stocks were slightly higher in June 2013. Seagrass locations were grouped into riverine, coastal, and seagrass loss locations and short temporal variability of Corg stocks was analysed within these categories to provide clearer insights into temporal patterns. Above ground Corg stocks were similar between coastal and riverine meadows. Below ground Corg stocks were highest in coastal meadows, followed by riverine meadows. Sediment Corg stocks within riverine meadows were much higher than at coastal meadows and areas of seagrass loss, with no difference in sediment Corg stocks between these last two categories. Riverine seagrass meadows, of higher turbidity, had greater total Corg stocks than meadows in offshore areas irrespective of time. We suggest that Corg stock assessment should prioritise sampling over spatial gradients, but repeated monitoring over short time scales is less likely to be warranted if environmental conditions remain stable.


Blue carbon Carbon sequestration Carbon stocks Carbon sinks 



The Environmental Health and Monitoring Program (EHMP, Government of Queensland) provided water quality data. The authors thank J. Gudiño, M. Lyons, E. Kovacs, R. Babcock, and S. Phinn for help in the field, and Moreton Bay Research Station. N. Adi, S. Ortiz, G. Minatel, and R. de Albuquerque helped with seagrass sample processing. Thanks to the Marine Spatial Ecology Laboratory at the University of Queensland for continued feedback, in particular to C. Brown and E. Aurellado.

Funding Information

This work was supported by a Post-Graduate Scholarship and research funding from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), an International Postgraduate Research Scholarship, and a University of Queensland Centennial Scholarship to JSV. Funding was provided by a Collaborative Research Grant Integrating Remote Sensing and Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Collected Field Data from CSIRO to CR. MIS was supported in part by an ARC SuperScience Fellowship from the Australian Research Council. The study was also supported by an ARC Laureate Fellowship to PJM and the Coastal Carbon Biogeochemistry Cluster at CSIRO.

Supplementary material

12237_2018_381_MOESM1_ESM.docx (23 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 23 kb)
12237_2018_381_Fig5_ESM.gif (79 kb)
Supplementary Fig. 1

Seagrass morphological characteristics at the four sites with seagrass presence at the Turbidity Gradient study region in Moreton Bay, SE Queensland, Australia. (a) Seagrass above ground biomass; (b) below ground biomass; (c) shoot density; and (d) leaf area. Bars indicate standard deviation. N = 6 for each bar. (GIF 78 kb)

12237_2018_381_MOESM2_ESM.tif (21 mb)
High resolution image (TIFF 21525 kb)
12237_2018_381_Fig6_ESM.gif (71 kb)
Supplementary Fig. 2

Spatial and temporal variation of above and below ground biomass and sediment Corg stocks in seagrass meadows of Moreton Bay, SE Queensland, Australia. W1 = austral Winter 2012, S1 = Summer 2013, W2 = Winter 2013. Sediment Corg stocks standardised to 10 cm depth. Coefficient of variation = 100 × standard deviation / average. (GIF 71 kb)

12237_2018_381_MOESM3_ESM.tif (20.5 mb)
High resolution image (TIFF 20971 kb)


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jimena Samper-Villarreal
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Peter J. Mumby
    • 1
    • 4
  • Megan I. Saunders
    • 1
    • 5
    • 6
  • Chris Roelfsema
    • 7
  • Catherine E. Lovelock
    • 4
  1. 1.Marine Spatial Ecology Lab and ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef StudiesUniversity of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia
  2. 2.CSIRO Ocean and Atmosphere Flagship, Ecosciences PrecinctBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.Centro de Investigación en Ciencias del Mar y Limnología (CIMAR)Universidad de Costa RicaSan JoséCosta Rica
  4. 4.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia
  5. 5.Global Change InstituteUniversity of QueenslandSt. LuciaAustralia
  6. 6.School of Chemical EngineeringThe University of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia
  7. 7.Remote Sensing Research Centre, School of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of QueenslandSt. LuciaAustralia

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