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Carbon and Nitrogen Stocks and Burial Rates in Intertidal Vegetated Habitats of a Mesotidal Coastal Lagoon

Abstract

Coastal vegetated ecosystems such as saltmarshes and seagrasses are important sinks of organic carbon (OC) and total nitrogen (TN), with large global and local variability, driven by the confluence of many physical and ecological factors. Here we show that sedimentary OC and TN stocks of intertidal saltmarsh (Sporobolus maritimus) and seagrass (Zostera noltei) habitats increased between two- and fourfold along a decreasing flow velocity gradient in Ria Formosa lagoon (south Portugal). A similar twofold increase was also observed for OC and TN burial rates of S. maritimus and of almost one order of magnitude for Z. noltei. Stable isotope mixing models identify allochthonous particulate organic matter as the main source to the sedimentary pools in both habitats (39–68%). This is the second estimate of OC stocks and the first of OC burial rates in Z. noltei, a small, fast-growing species that is widely distributed in Europe (41,000 ha) and which area is presently expanding (8600 ha in 2000s). Its wide range of OC stocks (29–99 Mg ha−1) and burial rates (15–122 g m2 y−1) observed in Ria Formosa highlight the importance of investigating the drivers of such variability to develop global blue carbon models. The TN stocks (7–11 Mg ha−1) and burial rates (2–4 g m−2 y−1) of Z. noltei were generally higher than seagrasses elsewhere. The OC and TN stocks (29–101 and 3–11 Mg ha−1, respectively) and burial rates (19–39 and 3–5 g m−2 y−1) in S. maritimus saltmarshes are generally lower than those located in estuaries subjected to larger accumulation of terrestrial organic matter.

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Acknowledgements

Foundation of Science and Technology of Portugal (FCT) funded this work through projects PTDC/MAR-EST/3223/2014, PTDC/MAR-EST/1031/2014, UIDP/00350/2020 and UIDB/04326/2020. C.B.d.l.S. was supported by FCT fellowship SFRH/BPD/119344/2016 and A.R.C. by FCT under the DL 57/2016/CP1361/CT0002. Funding was provided to P.M. by the Generalitat de Catalunya (Grant 2017 SGR-1588) and through an Australian Research Council LIEF Project (LE170100219). This work is contributing to the Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA) “Unit of Excellence” (MinECo, MDM2015-0552). The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is grateful for the support provided to its Environment Laboratories by the Government of the Principality of Monaco. We thank A. Silva, J. Dupont and C. Freitas for the assistance in the field and laboratory work and the Olhão Marina/Verbos do Cais, S.A. for their support in the use of the marina.

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Author contributions: MM: Methodology, Formal analysis, Investigation, Data curation, Visualization, Writing - original draft. CBdlS: Methodology, Supervision, Investigation, Writing—review and editing. RS: Conceptualization, Supervision, Methodology, Funding acquisition, Resources, Writing—review and editing. CV-P: Conceptualization, Supervision, Methodology, Resources, Writing—review and editing. PM: Methodology, Formal analysis, Resources, Writing—review and editing. ARC: Methodology, Funding acquisition, Resources, Writing—review and editing.

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Martins, M., de los Santos, C.B., Masqué, P. et al. Carbon and Nitrogen Stocks and Burial Rates in Intertidal Vegetated Habitats of a Mesotidal Coastal Lagoon. Ecosystems 25, 372–386 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-021-00660-6

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Keywords

  • Blue carbon
  • Nitrogen
  • Seagrass
  • Saltmarsh
  • Sediment stocks
  • Burial rates
  • Flow current velocity